Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: MGM
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock, Punk Blues
Gareth Liddiard is pissed off. On the first taste of The Drones’ new record Feelin Kinda Free, he subjects Australia’s military history, thinly veiled bigotry and crooked press machine to one of the most punishing verbal onslaughts this side of a Sleaford Mods track. The song’s subject, the implausibly creepy Taman Shud case, is perfect fodder for a songwriter who thrives on darkness, mystery and injustice – previous songs have touched on Laika the space dog, horrifying Japanese genocide and a collection of eerie Google street view photos just to scratch the surface.
When rightwing columnist/performance artist Andrew Bolt heard the lyrics to the Drones’ single Taman Shud – “I don’t care about no Andrew Bolt” – he wrote that the band was “stamping on the ashes of the west’s musical traditions”. Supposedly offended by the thought that singer Gareth Liddiard didn’t give a toss about anything he said, he added: “Critics like these make me feel like I’m offending exactly the right kind of people.” Naturally, the Drones were delighted. First, they would no doubt feel exactly the same way about offending Bolt and his tabloid constituency.
For almost two decades, Australia’s The Drones have been making weird, twisted, psychedelic garage rock’n’roll with scant regard for convention. Nothing has changed with this seventh studio album which is, perhaps, weirder and more twisted than anything they’ve released before. A case in point is Taman Shud. Taking its name from a (still unidentified) dead body found washed up on a beach south of Adelaide in 1948, it’s an arrhythmic, nihilistic invective against popular culture (and most everything else) that merges a Waitsian sense of musicality with an acerbic punk rock ethos to make its point all the more profound and powerful.
The mercurial Aussie rockers open their seventh studio long player with a thick blast of heavily treated guitar terror that suggests Muse by way of King Crimson, setting the stage for what is their weirdest and most visceral outing to date. Feelin Kinda Free doubles down on the darker aspects of 2013's critically acclaimed I See Seaweed, but where the former more or less adhered to the bluesy, alt-rock malevolence of album's past, the latter eschews traditional pop architecture in favor of something far more feral and unpredictable. The sonic heft that propels "Private Execution" soon gives way to icy, downtempo electronica on the harrowing "To Think That I Once Loved You" and the paranoid closer "Shut Down Seti," with its surrealistic ranting, sudden stylistic shifts, and white squalls of dissonance, wouldn't have sounded out of place on David Bowie's Blackstar.