Written by: TL on 10/04/2015 19:39:11

With 2013's self-titled debut album, the Castleton duo with the Danish name Drenge made good on the hype they had already been fortunate enough to have building by the time it came out. The Loveless brothers did so with a sound that was completely dry: One drum kit, one guitar riffing in your face, one drawling British vocal, songs like "Bloodsport", "Nothing" and "I Want To Break You In Half" that you could air guitar and howl along to in your most post-punk manner. It was not songwriting sorcery but it was devilishly efficient at its best, raising expectations for the band's future, which they have now taken a step towards with the recent release of second album "Undertow".

For the album the band has picked up a third member in bassist Rob Graham to play on a few tracks, and meanwhile guitarist and lead singer Eoin Loveless seems to have discovered some more effect pedals, because overall his playing is more twangy and reverberating than previously. This bodes pretty well on the first proper track "Running Wild", where the now cavernous garage rock of the band rolls ahead with a laid-back swagger to it, yet regrettably the following "Never Awake" flips the script and lends its title to a likely description of the listener's state by the end of it.

"We Can Do What We Want" and "Favourite Son" follow and up the tempo, bringing forth an energy level more akin to the band's first album, and particularly the almost rockabilly, Ramones-ish tempo of the former helps make an immediate highlight for the album. The latter has something that sounds like an organ in it, which makes it feel like something that could just as well have come out of Arctic Monkeys' collaboration with Queens Of The Stone Age's Josh Homme.

Overall though, it's the more medium-paced songs that dominate the runtime of "Undertow", and as these stack up with examples like "The Snake", "The Woods" and the title track, the new album gradually starts to feel less kick-ass than its predecessor. The sound is more atmospheric and structured, which lends itself well to casual background/radio listening, but the repetition in Eoin and Rory's compositions feels like more of a weight on the experience than previously. You wonder if particularly Eoin has been too interested in getting just the right effect on his guitar, instead of coming up with more of the jagged riff patterns that pounced immediately on the listener on "Drenge". Regardless, the tinkering with the tone of the sound only really starts to feel like potential during a brief quasi-solo thrown in at the middle of "Standing In The Cold", and during the closer "Have You Forgotten My Name", where Rory lends his vocals more noticeably to his brother's as well. If the intention has been to calm down and focus more on atmosphere and lyrics, then the album only makes its halfway there, because with Eoin's vocals also getting tucked into the reverb somewhat, his expression is blurred slightly, and thus hindered from drawing your attention towards the words.

Drenge still have style, and the songs on "Undertow" flow ahead nicely enough to engage listeners on a casually rocking level. But on closer inspection the album has the classic sophomore syndrome of bringing about development while getting too far away from what the band did well on their debut. So here's to hoping that future songs will see Drenge successfully connect their now more nuanced atmospheres, with a bit more of the directness and ballsyness of the riffs and vocal performances on their debut album.

Download: We Can Do What We Want, Running Wild
For The Fans Of: Pulled Apart By Horses, Weekend, Arctic Monkeys
Listen: facebook.com/drengeboys

Release date 06.04.2015
Infectious Records

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