Drenge: Strange Creatures (Infectious Music)

Things take a turn for the weird on the indie rock stalwarts excellent third LP

Released Feb 22nd, 2019 via Infectious Music / By Dave Reynolds
Drenge: Strange Creatures (Infectious Music) Drenge, AKA the Loveless Brothers Eoin and Rory return after a long wait with their third album Strange Creatures; a record that expands on the scraps of the more expansive storytelling that emerged on their second album Undertow, yet still carries some of the unhinged rawness of their eponymous 2013 debut. And it’s spooky as hell to boot.

The band describe this as the most considered record they’ve ever made, yet the brutally brilliant lead single and album opener Bonfire of the City Boys has the urgency and immediacy of a track that could have been written in a heartbeat. A perfect soundtrack to the no-deal Brexit riot-in-the-streets hellscape that no doubt awaits us, Eoin’s first words spoken on the album are: It Started With a Bang. He isn’t wrong. A pulsing set of verses driven by a grinding bass line come to a fiery and ferocious end as the title of the track is roared repeatedly, and we’re left picturing a world where we’re using bankers for fuel to toast our marshmallows. Doesn’t sound that bad actually, does it? Unless you’re not a marshmallow fan.

Gone are the days of Drenge being a live two piece, with the addition of another guitarist and bassist helping to bring their sound to a more expansive life, but there’s a sense that these additions have also had a hand in shaping the band’s thinking on record too, now they know they can bring this more widescreen sound to life. This record comes three years after the last, with months of “chiseling away, ripping themes and ideas apart, and sewing them back together,” according to the band.

Previous album Undertow dipped its toes into the murky waters of a noir-creepy atmosphere, but Strange Creatures feels like Drenge taking a full-blooded belly flop into weirdness. With the release of this album, the band described is as “a nocturnal record….like a psychological horror movie on wax.” It’s at these gloriously creepy, narrative driven moments that the album is perhaps at its best.

Prom Night details some sinister goings on at a school dance, as if told by a Halloween-themed Father John Misty. A single trumpet works as an accompaniment to help convey the story unfolding. No Flesh Road describes an aimless midnight drive with the groove of the track driven by the steady passing of cats eyes in the road. Eoin describes being “so bored I look for swearwords in registration plates”, but there’s an evocative cinematic quality built by the drive toward the narrators search for an ending. The title track scuttles into view using organ-like keys buried in the mix throughout, creating an oh-so-creepy ambience, before a reverb-filled guitar line washes over the top with Eoin “going to sleep outside, with all my strange creatures.”

It’s easy to say this album would have been well suited to a release date around spooky season. The band themselves note that they have missed so many deadlines in putting this album together which is perhaps why we’re getting this album as the days start to get longer. However, this record is a brave, bold step from a band looking to create something so different to what they’ve made before. It certainly starts with a Drenge-like bang, but goes in mysterious, unexpected and brilliant places afterwards. 4/5