Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Frenchkiss Records
A band of tasty, Strokes-ey, easy-listening licks, 2014 gives us all a chance to get a real feeling for what Drowners are about. After releasing the Between Us Girls EP last year, their self-titled debut arrives carrying with it three re-recorded tunes from said record (“Long Hair”, “You’ve Got It Wrong” and “Shell Across The Tongue”). Originally hailing from the depths of Wales, singer (and model) Matt Hitt fronts the New York-based quartet with an infectious and indulgent singing tone.
New York’s Drowners take their name from one of Suede’s singles, but their self-titled debut album suggests a band digging back further than the ’90s Britpop revival, right back into the heart of the jangly ’80s. Guitarist Jack Ridley evidently worships at the altar of Johnny Marr, while songs such as ‘Unzip Your Harrington’ wear their second-hand Englishness with pride. ‘Ways To Phrase A Rejection’ proves the four-piece do a good enough job of recreating the kitchen-sink narratives of the era, but where they really excel is when they slip back into the 21st century: see ‘Bar Chat’, which fizzes along with pure garage-rock fury, frontman Matt Hitt adopting a Casablancas snarl and uncovering Drowners’ real potential as he goes.
A New York band fronted by a 25-year-old Welsh model, Drowners play what they've called "friendly post-punk" – crisp, bright Anglo-Eighties guitar pop bristling with the coy cockiness of posh bros who never get much resistance at closing time. Their full-length debut piles on Johnny Marr allusions while singer Matt Hitt coolly tosses off lines like "Undo another button on your blouse/These days, you know, I rarely leave the house." Songs like "Unzip Your Harrington" and "Luv, Hold Me Down" aren't deep, but the charging-guitar shimmer and fun, facile choruses are pretty undeniable. It's kind of weird no one thought of this sooner: It's the Smiths reborn as the Strokes.
There’s no way to get around it, Drowners sound like The Libertines. They might be based in New York rather than London, named after a Suede song, and frontman Matthew Hitt may cite The Smiths as his favourite band, but there it is. The chord changes, the vocal melodies, the fact Hitt’s voice sounds uncannily like that of Carl Barat – no other comparison could come close.So it would be incredibly easy to sneer at them; it’s a decade since sounding like The Libertines was ever deemed a positive, just as long as it’s been since indie clubs were fuelled by cheap watered-down vodka, Strokes songs and Klaxons’ futuristic keyboards.
Credit where it’s due: this band is named Drowners, not New York City Cops or Fake Tales of San Francisco. This is a fact that's easier to appreciate after spending a half-hour with the bloke-rock quartet’s self-titled debut, because in the split second between knowing the band’s name and pressing play on Drowners, you can be overwhelmed with the daunting influence of Suede rather than the Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. It’s your last chance, though, so enjoy it while you can.
New York City post-punk quartet Drowners love Suede so much that they named their group after one of their songs. They also love the Smiths, the Strokes, and the Arctic Monkeys, and they're not ashamed of sounding exactly like them. This needs to be taken into consideration when dropping the needle on the band's eponymous debut long-player, because taken at face value, it's hard to get past its thrift-shop nature, but like their brothers from across the pond, the Vaccines, with whom they have smartly toured, they lack the skill set for subterfuge.
Named after Suede's Britpop-defining single, four-piece New York band Drowners have released a self-titled debut that's actually more evocative of the Smiths and the Strokes, with its jangly guitar riffs, punchy hooks and morning-after ruminations on boozing and breakups. The slight warble in singer Matt Hitt's voice even seems to be angling for Julian Casablancas's ability to move from dispassionate to flirtatious to snarling within a few bars. But nowhere in this briskly paced album's 12 songs do you ever feel like last night's party has seeped into the studio, much less your stereo speakers.
Perhaps, whilst happy in the haze of a drunken hour it seemed like an inspired, nay, invincible idea. IT being the idea to harness the Wildean whipcrackin’ wit and mercurial melody of Manchester’s magnificent Smiths and fuse it with all the piss n’ vinegar, snaked-hipped, white hot fury of NY’s too-cool-for-school Strokes. A marriage made in musical Valhalla.
If the axiom that talent borrows but genius steals is true, then Drowners will be getting their Mensa membership cards in the post any day now. Ways to Phrase a Rejection, the opening track on the New York-based group's debut album, couldn't be any more Strokesy if it turned up late for interviews and started making half-arsed solo spinoff records: the megaphone-treatment slurred vocals, the spindly guitar lines, the surges and lulls are all present and correct. It's unoriginal, but it's wildly exciting.
Drowners are a leather jacket-donning, New York-based band fronted by an ex-pat Welsh male model and named after the debut single of Britpop titans Suede – the suave man’s Pulp, who in turn were the thinking man’s Blur, who were in turn the sentient man’s Oasis. These are the first things anyone ever mentions when talking about Drowners, probably because they are undeniably cool qualities for a 21st century indie band to possess. Say someone were to ask a focus group to produce a brainstorm entitled ‘Components of Ideal 21st Century Indie Band’ on a flipchart in a record label boardroom somewhere.
If you’re one of those “I liked the first two Strokes records, but…” people, boy have I got a band for you. From the droll vox crooning out innuendos, jangly Smiths-y guitar licks, tune-drive dropouts, the dime-stop endings, and essentially unfettered production, there is some serious flattery going down on this debut. But then this New York quartet sound like the Kooks too (Long Hair, You’ve Got It Wrong, Let Me Finish), and probably a number of other forgotten post-Strokes signing frenzies, and, wow, can you believe it’s been 13 years since that Strokes debut?! These guys can, only they do something about it.