Album Review: Drowners – On Desire

By on Tuesday, 21st June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Drowners On Desire album coverYes, you might still have still have the mac, brolly or even a jumper on standby if you’re in Britain or Ireland. However, out here in America, it’s definitely summer, and we’ve all got their sunglasses on. Happy solstice, everyone! And at the end of this week, we can celebrate with the release of Drowners’ second album ‘On Desire’. (In contrast, their self-titled 2014 debut on Frenchkiss Records was released in the chilly dead of winter.) The feel good waves of indie rock of its predecessor are also evident on the new record, Make no mistake: don’t expect any earth-shattering political overtures here. Instead, settle in for this series of songs about love, in its all its heartbreaking, pain-inducing, false hope giving forms.

‘On Desire’ begins with a swift boot kick to the rear, as a loud crash of guitars ushers in ‘Troublemaker’. In a lovely Smiths-ian way, what follows is a jaunty, fun guitar line accompanying a short, but clearly sinister tale of embroilment, of being drawn into the web of a femme fatale. In another in your face, up tempo number, Hitt bemoans in ‘Someone Else is Getting In’ his mistake giving his woman the space she asks for, only to have another suitor swoop in and get into her bed during their break.

In ‘Conversations with Myself’, the feeling of being left behind comes across like being struck by the freight train of heavy beats in the bridge. Except for the oddly reined-in chorus, the synth notes and cacophonous guitar notes dig into your skull, as if you’re being skewered. Hitt’s initially sotto voce vocals in ‘Trust the Tension’ give way to full-fledged nastiness. The goth-y, Echo and the Bunnymen guitars seem sympathetic as he admits turning into a bad version of himself while being yanked around by a partner who won’t commit. There’s a variation on the same theme in the very catchy single ‘Pick Up the Pace’, an upbeat synth-led number that proved peerless live at SXSW 2016.

Unlike Morrissey, who prefers to sit on the sidelines like a wallflower and generally feels rebuffed if ignored, Hitt has suffered by being directly cheated on and screwed with. We’ve all been messed with when it comes to the opposite sex, and there’s satisfaction in finding someone to empathise with. The sad thing is, you’re left wondering if it was better him than you. Standout track ‘Another Go’ chronicles another pessimistic conversation inside Hitt’s head, utilising Moz’s oft-used formula of coming to a foregone conclusion about unsuccessful love without actually being proactive. Insecurity is painful to listen to, but it’s on this track where Drowners gets closest to the Morrissey/Marr partnership, with its winsome guitars and pop feel. In ‘Human Remains’, both Hitt and a mysterious other man referenced suffer from the throes of unrequited love. The song benefits from Hitt’s oozy, boozy, schmaltzy delivery: “desire doesn’t fade / it only gets replaced.” Oddly, the croonery ballad ‘Dreams Don’t Count’ is a strange misstep. I guess this one’s for the Alex Turner fans?

In case you somehow missed it, the South Wales-born Hitt is also a model. Having been on and off one of the most eligible bachelors of New York City, he’s been linked romantically to the likes of Alexa Chung and Dakota Johnson. This makes one wonder if his words in Drowners songs are a means of artistic catharsis. Hey, if writing about ex-lovers works for Taylor Swift, why not, right? Regardless of how far your heart gets into the emotional underpinnings of this album, the timing of this release makes it perfect for playing whilst your ‘Long Hair’ (yes, pun intended) is flying in the breeze out of an open-top convertible. Or whatever vehicle you can manage to stick your head out of without getting wet and cold.

8/10

‘On Desire’, the sophomore album from New York City’s Drowners, is out this Friday, the 24th of June on Frenchkiss Records. For more coverage of Drowners on TGTF, go here.

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