It should all be so right – scratchy rhythms, strung out guitars, agressive punchy hits and dark lyrics about losing your mind. Guitars howl and time signatures change. Harmonies come in, the antipodean frontman yowls and croons in unequal parts. There’s certainly angles there: songs about burying the dead, pornography and mythology. Oh and the albums named after a land of plenty just outside the garden of Eden, so that’s God covered too.
Yet this is not a Nick Cave record. And that’s where The Drones suffer. The influences of The Badseeds, The Birthday Party and the Gun Club overshadow their competent, if unadventurous, sound. Musically it’s enjoyable, but frontman Gareth Liddiard’s Aussie drawl is an acquired taste. Think tiny parts of Cave throughout his career put in a blender with Johnny Rotten and you’re almost there. At times this works fine, particularly at the end of ‘The Minotaur’ where his repeated yelps of “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” bring the track to a cacophanous, brutalist climax. However, when things are slowed down, the raspy nature of the crooning begins to grate, and expose the occasionally clunking lyrics, ‘Careful As You Go’ being a case in point. Seriously, it is not OK to try to rhyme Emmaus with New South Wales. Ever.
‘Oh My’ takes on ideas of global warming and injustices by saying “humans are a waste of food” and suggesting people should “get your tubes tied or better yet go commit suicide”. It also contains the line “I’m going to be stuck here with you rookies eating fortune cookies”. Ouch.
Yet for all this when it all comes together Havilah is an enjoyable listen. It’s a woozy, off kilter take on country rock with some instrument wrangling thrown in for good measure. The problem is that things don’t fall in to place often enough for The Drones, and it leaves them explosed. The bargin basement Bukowski lyrics don’t quite support the elongated songs or the hushed reverance they seem to recieve in some quaters.