[29 January 2014]
Perhaps, whilst happy in the haze of a drunken hour it seemed like an inspired, nay, invincible idea. IT being the idea to harness the Wildean whipcrackin’ wit and mercurial melody of Manchester’s magnificent Smiths and fuse it with all the piss n’ vinegar, snaked-hipped, white hot fury of NY’s too-cool-for-school Strokes. A marriage made in musical Valhalla. Then perhaps name said cocktail after one of the finest début singles ever, stir in some Libertines’ licks n’ kicks for extra fizz, decamp to Albert Hammond Jr’s buddy Gus Oberg’s swankpad and – SHABOOM!- Rock ‘n’ roll’s gonna be your dog! Well, Drowners is IT folks. Although IT appears to be…. well, surprisingly humdrum. Rock ‘n’ roll is jonesing for a good kicking from an incendiary army of androgynous misfits eager to boot the grime of this world in the crotch dear, but this ain’t it. From the “Last Nite” drawlin’ crash of “Ways to Phrase a Rejection” to the bratty, ‘kickin’ off yo’ nappy’ stomp of “A Shell Across the Tongue” Drowners proves depressingly formulaic and despairingly familiar.
Well it’s certainly consistent. Predictably so. With an average lifespan of just two minutes each, Drowners’ dozen ditties whizz by in a headless panic of black leather, Levi’s and lipstick traces yet little lingers bar the mist of cigarettes, aftershave and desperation. UK born model Matthew Hitt pants and pines for his paramours endlessly like a stageschool dandy whilst his bandmates frantically shuffle between Manchester melody and Manhattan mash-up. It’s painting by numbers. The poppy “Luv, Hold Me Down” photocopies Johnny Marr’s trademark Rickenbacker hazy jangle across “Afternoons sleeping on my chest” before spinning dizzy into a bouquet of Gladioli. “Watch You Change” is Mozzer and co.‘s “Girl Afraid” given a suntan and a muscle shirt from GAP. “You’re not going home alone tonight and fuckin’ neither am I” it exhales brutishly. “You’ve Got It All Wrong” is all amphetamine attitude, coiffured ruffians and Casablancas’ cocksure cool, “I have to stick the boot in because that’s how it goes.”
Elsewhere the “Oh what a cad!” titled “Unzip your Harrington” sways beneath the rockabilly mirrorball of Arctic Monkeys’ “Fluorescent Adolescent” whilst its words dream curious for “This Charming Man”. “Oh boy you look so suave when you unzip your Harrington” drawls Hitt, not entirely convincingly, before warning of “All the things you’re scared to tell your father”. Drowners are clearly capable of throwing down the odd bon mot lyrically (“There’s not a shoulder cold enough for me to give her”) but in such coolly contrived surroundings they sadly wither fast.
It comes as no great surprise when Drowners doesn’t quite cross the finish line triumphantly as much as collapse into a self-imposed, strait-jacketed heap. O, repeat to fade! “Pure Pleasure” delivers more wraps of speed, pogo panic, screamage kicks and faux mystery, “I can love you in secret / But no one can know.” Ditto the just-got-outta-bed, baby shambles of “Well, People Will Talk”. By the time you reach the desperate, drooling fever of “Let Me Finish” (“Oh God I can’t control myself”) and the sub-Libertines’ booze, brawls and broken bottles of painful album nadir “Bar Chat” you’ll be convinced you’ve been inexplicably hearing the same song on an endless loop all along. “Don’t go tellin’ everyyyyoooone in town” spits Hitt on the latter as you calmly consider the merits of a monastery life.
There are a few fleeting moments that slap you on the patio and mercifully drag you from yet another spin on Repetition Roundabout. “Long Hair” from last year’s Between Us Girls EP still fizzes with effervescent charm. A rush and a push of perky puppy playfulness and memories of endless summers deliriously misspent. “Does he teach you things?” ponders Hitt idly, likely whilst teasing his quiff. The comparatively epic—at over three minutes—“A Button on Your Blouse” is lovelier still. A coquettish, Morrissey-worthy yarn of reclusive romantics pining lustily for each other from the jail cell confines of their broken bedrooms. “Have you seen me in my prison clothes?” it sighs, “I hate the thought of you… missing out”. It’s sweet, smartly seductive and for one blissful, magical moment, Drowners’ get their sticky fingers firmly on the holy coattails of their illustrious masters.
The reason The Smiths, Is This It?, Up the Bracket, “Et cetera, et cetera”, are so reverentially adored is because their makers channelled their inspirations through the prism of their own experiences and personalities to create true originals. Oh and they had great fuckin’ songs too. The underfed Drowners falls on both. It’s ultimately too much of a junior pantomime, a clumsily composed valentine to genuinely extraordinary records. Beneath its peacock plumage, preening, posturing and ‘performance’ there lies too little imagination. Swimming out of their depth, Drowners’ best shot is that they become some stray traveller’s gateway drug to the real Class As.