You know you’ve made it when a Parliamentary MP boasts to be a fan of your band. Everyone remembers David Cameron thinking that he looked good on the dancefloor when he namechecked Arctic Monkeys back in 2006, and now it seems the honour has fallen to also Drenge, the self-confessed soundtrack to Labour MP Tom Watson’s resignation from the cabinet this year. Nothing says rock n’roll like telling Ed Milliband where to shove it.
Naming themselves after the Danish word for ‘boys’, (something which the pair thought sounded ‘really ugly and vicious, a good way to describe the riffs we’ve been kicking about’), it was obvious from the off that brothers Eoin and Rory were hardly setting themselves up to be the next Ting Tings. From the singles ‘BloodSports’ and ‘Backwaters’, it was clear that we were dealing with something heavier, the same primal desire that is currently fuelling the success of Deap Valley and Wet Nuns. But can Drenge sustain this nonchalant passion for a whole record?
The simple answer is yes. The 12 tracks that make up the boys self-titled debut are so typically rock that if the cd disk grew arms and legs, it would be off down the shops to buy itself a leather jacket with a waifish model hanging on its arm and a cigarette dripping off its lip. Considering the pair hail from Castleton, a mere bus ride away from Sheffield, there is northern history all over the record, from the Cocker-esque spoken word self-depreciation of ‘Fuckabout’, to the Alex Turner prize-worthy weighty pop mastery of ‘Dogmeat’.
Considering its status as a debut, it is a remarkably confident offering. Its influences are worn as clearly as an ostentatious forearm tattoo, although cultural appropriation done this well is no bad thing. ‘Backwaters’ is the natural brother to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s ‘Spread Your Love’, and ‘BloodSports’ is clearly born from a loyal servancy to Queens of the Stone Age. It’s where Drenge add their own stamp that things get much more interesting, with new single Face Like A Skull’s dark sludgey sound the sort of song that Whitechapel-Vampire era The Horrors would consider trading their paisley shirts back in for, so dirty and relentless is the ode to ‘sunken eyes and rotting flesh’.
The only worry is that the trick could wear a little thin after so many variations on the same tempo and tone. Luckily the turning point is ‘I Don’t Want To Make Love To You’, a witty take on the melody of the similarly titled Etta James classic, its tongue in cheek fuzz lifting the tone and reminding you of the youth behind the duo’s hard exterior. ‘Nothing’ also brings a welcome change of pace as Eoin flicks 50-Shades-Of-Grey-Gone-Charles-Manson worthy rhymes off his lips (‘Take me to the valley in the south/Put a sopping flannel in my mouth/And hold it/Choking/Please don’t stop till I’m reduced to nothing’)
What ‘Drenge’ offers is nothing innately complicated or profoundly smart, just a well-orchestrated thrill ride of bold rock that I imagine only gets more exhilarating live. No track outstays its welcome, there is a common theme both musically and lyrically and there is a just enough new influence on a very old sound. In a world where autotune and orchestrated RnB ‘drops’ rein king, it is a refreshingly honest change to hear. Maybe more members of the cabinet should take note.