Drenge - Undertow

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2015-04-07

Seemingly no longer content to merely exist as one of England's best kept secrets, Drenge (who were infamously name-checked in Labour MP Tom Watson's 'parting shot' resignation letter) have wasted little time basking in the glow of their critically acclaimed self-titled debut. Where history is littered with countless bands who have tripped over their own success on the way to the oft-cited sophomore slump, Drenge have continued to operate with the hunger of an unsigned band. Touring incessantly for the better part of two years, Dredge returned to the studio in late 2014 with a new level of artistic confidence.

 

Working with producer Ross Orton, the band emerged with Undertow, an impressive follow-up to their ferociously infectious self-titled debut that contains a rolling collection of songs steeped in swagger and confidence. In fact, Undertow could have just as easily been another band's fifth (or 10th) record. And there-in lies the intrinsic charm of Undertow: it sounds like a well-seasoned act firing on all of its proverbial cylinders, because that's exactly what it is.

 

All of the ingredients are still there, albeit in a more complementary mix this time around. Eoin Loveless adds a new range of dynamics to his shout/sing vocals, a contrast that yields some of his most powerful performances yet. Brother Rory's drums continue to relentlessly push the songs forward as if he is playing rhythm guitar with his kit. The production and mix are in every way better this time around as well; the songs are punchy and clear without ever sounding too polished.

 

While Undertow is the sound of a band refining its craft, it is also chock-full of sonic deviations. The rousing ‘We Can Do What We Want’ begins with a cannon-ball sized snare roll before settling into a tom-heavy groove, while ‘Favourite Son’ features a lush breakdown that sets the stage for the raging final chorus.  ‘Never Awake’ is one of the most tuneful songs Dredge have ever written, channeling Disintegration-era Cure through their post-millennium lens.

 

Listening to the first Drenge album, one couldn't help but hear a heavy-handed homage to a handful of artists representing the best of what alt-rock has offered over the past two decades. After all, that is what alt-rock started as: an amalgamation of all the disparate brands of rock music. But with Undertow, Drenge are starting to carve out their own direction with a sound which might well one day be cited as influential by alt-rock's next generation of bands.  

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