Drenge burst into our eardrums in 2013 with their self-titled debut album. It was a welcome opening, at least to me anyway. Drenge were among the raucous two-piece outfits that seemed to be periodically emerging. We got Royal Blood, but whilst their musings were slick, tight and produced, Drenge were rough, ready and ultimately more punk.
Strange Creatures, six years on, is no doubt a development in their sound. You can’t stay rough-house punk forever I suppose. (See: John Lydon in the countrylife butter advert.) However, there is something ‘Drenge’ missing from their most recent album. Part of the record is excellent, namely the first three tracks. “Autonomy” and “Bonfire of the City Boys” are both lyrically interesting and have catchy hooks. “This Dance” also manages to recapture the dirtier and grungier side of their sound. The aforementioned ‘development’ comes in the form of synthy additions to these tracks, and it works well.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the album feels slightly lacklustre. Some of the production stands out slightly, for example the sax solo on “Prom Night” but it is not enough overall to pull me in. I may just be a fan wanting more of the same, but as a whole, what is on offer here doesn’t hold up against their past two records.6 10
Favourite tracks // This Dance
Bonfire of the City Boys
It’s disappointing how much better the closing track of Strange Creature’s is than the rest of the album. “When I Look into Your Eyes” is spacious, catchy, memorable… everything the nine tracks before it are not. There are glimpses of something vibey and energetic, but they are infrequent and blurry. The clean, inoffensive production doesn’t suit the instrumentals, the raw elements of which would probably sound quite grungy if we were allowed to hear them properly. “Autonomy” might have been a banger if it was allowed to be dirty.
As has been the case with most of the new releases we’ve listened to this year, Strange Creatures isn’t bad, but I want more than not bad. One great track and a handful of bright moments is barely enough for an EP, let alone an album. With the anger and energy of IDLES’ Joy as an Act of Resistance still fresh in my mind I can’t help but find this lacking in comparison. And boy does Eoin Loveless enjoy the sound of his own voice. At least Alex Turner justifies talking as much as he does.6 10
Favourite tracks // When I Look into Your Eyes
No Flesh Road
Strange Creatures certainly has a bite to it that we haven’t seen in other releases this year. From the opening crunchy stabs, it’s an attention grabber. But it’s still an album that tends towards hidden highlights over continuous belters.
Eoin Loveless’ vocals are reminiscent of similar bands from a decade ago with a noticeable difference to the band’s previous material, the vocal on “Autonomy” is especially satisfying. Instrumentals are varied enough, especially in the first half, where “This Dance” almost feels like fresh material from Bloc Party, while “Teenage Love” takes a more raucous approach.
It’s the second half that sinks for me, as the pace slows, so too does the variety, and with the exception of “Never See the Signs” and “When I Look Into Your Eyes” it becomes harder to remember where I am in the tracklist. That said “Prom Night” has a surly, moody atmosphere helped by a raspy horn section, and “No Flesh Road” opens promisingly although sadly doesn’t develop much further from there.
Nevertheless, Strange Creatures is a solid entry into the band’s catalogue and certainly worth a listen. As to whether it’ll stick around until the end of the year? I’m a lot less sure.7 10
Favourite tracks // Autonomy
Never See the Signs
When I Look into Your Eyes