Drenge at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea REVIEW: ‘There’s an interesting future ahead’
Any band with a new album out is obviously going to be proud of it and want to share it with their fans.
But when that album, their third, has only been out for a month, and three out of the four opening songs at your gig are from said album, it’s a risky gambit. Even more so when this album, Strange Creatures, represents a bit of a departure from the sound that made your name. The original Drenge duo of guitar and drums were a primal, grungy rush, but many of the new songs take in post-punk influences and synths. The band still revolves around the core of the Loveless brothers – Eoin up front on guitars and vocals, with Rory on drums, but the live set-up is now expanded to a four-piece. Opening brace Prom Night and Bonfire of The City Boys – both new tracks – are exercises in brooding, controlled menace. It’s only at the climax of Bonfire that cathartic release arrives. It takes until the fifth song in, early single Face Like a Skull, for the moshpit to ignite. And with an extra guitarist on stage now, Eoin is often freed up to prowl the stage, instrument-free and indulging in some Ian Curtis-like jerky dance moves. It’s other old singles like a visceral Bloodsports, and a dash through People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck, including an audience shout-along, which get the biggest audience response. But kudos to the brothers for wanting to try something new. Heck, a couple of tracks barely even feature guitars – and they’re no less effective for it. The likes of Teenage Love and Never See The Signs deserve to become future live favourites. They’re in good humour too – Rory earns joking boos for daring to complain about a pizza he bought from local institution Ken’s, while Eoin suggests he’s just asking to get beaten up as a result. The main set’s final song, Let’s Pretend is the longest song in the band’s catalogue by some stretch, and so it is here – it’s lengthy, crawling opening finally gives way to a galloping, feedback-drenched finale. There is an inevitable call for more, so we get yet another Strange Creatures song (the eighth of the night), the loping love song When I Look Into Your Eyes, before the garage-rock blowout of We Can Do What We Want. Three albums in, this could be a turning point for the band. If they can hold their nerve with the new material and keep experimenting sonically, there’s an interesting future ahead.