Drenge kick-started its musical life as a sort of anti-rock act: a bass guitar-less brotherly duo from the Peak District who rose to prominence through a Labour MP’s resignation letter. Rock ‘n’ roll. In spite of this, they pumped out a relentless, even furious, self-titled debut that caught everyone’s attention. It was gritty, punchy and direct – everything that’s wanted from a first album. More of the same on sophomore LP Undertow, then? Not quite.
On the debut record Eoin Loveless’s drawling vocal delivery contrasted with the meaty guitar riffs, which made it a fun and interesting listen. On Undertow the vocals stay the same but the instrumentation is slower and much closer to grunge, which works against Drenge’s sound: it all gets a bit lost in a distorted sludge with nothing really standing out. It sounds a bit timid, really, as if the brothers aren’t too sure where they’re going with this.
To say that Drenge have fallen victim of the ‘difficult second album’ cliché would be an understatement: they seem to have just run out of ideas and sound just like any other overdrive-loving guitar band. It’s noticeable early on – third track ‘Never Awake’ is just so…average. The lyrics are tired (“it’s just so hard to talk to you / because you’re never awake”), sound as though they’d started the writing process with the song’s title and tried to shoehorn it into the chorus to give it some sort of hook, it just sounds sloppy.
The only redeeming quality on Undertow is lead single ‘We Can Do What We Want’ – it’s the band at their best, and it’s the closest thing this album has to a ‘Bloodsports’. Otherwise, I just really wouldn’t bother.