Drinks: Hippo Lite (Drag City)

Despite the impressive provenance of its creators, the second record by Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley is a self-indulgent affair

Released Apr 23rd, 2018 via Drag City / By Erick Mertz
Drinks: Hippo Lite (Drag City) The search for strange through art can be a vexing journey. Some creators dabble. Others seem to, with an otherworldly ease, imbue classic forms with strangeness. Some part of me wants to believe that Drinks are the latter. I really, really want to.

On their latest record, Hippo Lite, a follow up to 2015’s Hermits On Holiday, the sometimes duo hops-skips-jumps through a dozen bizarre, funny and off-kilter tracks that all seem to land somewhere I’ve never been. The question is, did I really want to travel there? On the opener “Blue From The Dark” a sprightly acoustic guitar collides with a light, echoing background sound while Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley (aka White Fence) sing atonally, like two children playing a theatrical game on a rainy afternoon. Part of me likes that they’re having a bit of fun, but, eh, like a parent watching someone else’s kid perform, it’s less about a quality stage production than novelty.

That sentiment of being a mere witness to novelty nags me throughout Hippo Lite. As a collection of songs, it gets decent marks for creativity and its stark lack of convention, but as an album it hardly holds together and ends up forgettable. The track list is peppered with interludes, like If It and When I Was Young which are song parts, not exactly songs. The lead single, Real Outside is a fine little bedroom number, a fusion of twee pop and dance and may capture Drinks at their best. But so often it is the song structures that grind, like Pink Or Die which is obnoxiously repetitive, or the closer, You Could Be Better which possesses all of the charm of a skipping record.

While it’s not entirely a stab at the gauzy blue ether without an anchor, each listen forces my interest further and further adrift. It’s like when the neighbour kid wants me to look over the fence and watch his blanket cape stage antics. Can I just confess that, while it may be yours, it’s not my particular cup of tea?