The Drones – ‘I See Seaweed’ Album Review
After leaving us with Havilah in 2008 and with Gareth Liddiard’s solo outing Strange Tourist from 2010 it was beginning to feel like time for a fix from The Drones. And that’s exactly what’s happened; their latest effort I See Seaweed is the band at their visceral, explosive best. If Havilah saw The Drones move into slightly lighter territory, then I See Seaweed is not a return, but an expansion on the dark scenarios that they are so good at creating.
Album opener ‘I See Seaweed’ holds nothing back as an introduction – a jangled, eerie arrangement seeps through as Liddiard paints a picture with such venom it feels like he’s been holding it in for some time. “Do you recollect how fucked you were…” It’s an incredible opener with a chorus, of sorts, that’s as close to a musical punch in the face as you could get. At over eight minutes long it holds no prisoners in preparing the listener for the rest of the album. What follows is a slightly more coherent song, and first single, ‘How To See Through Fog’. We are get an introduction to Steve Hesketh, the newly added fifth member, on piano, and it’s a smoky, early morning track that feels like every space in the song has been utilised perfectly.
While listening, it feels that at certain points the album would not be out of place in a John Hillcoat film, a la The Proposition. It’s that feeling of a vast desolation occupied by a lonely bartender accompanied by an even lonelier customer, this could possibly be attributed to the out of tune feel to the guitars, a diminished or augmented sound that immediately strikes an image of a western, desert landscape, most successfully portrayed through ‘They’ll Kill You’. In saying that, Liddiard’s lyrical focus seems to have shifted from a colonial landscape to a tighter, more in depth look at the greater human landscape.
If you felt like you were getting too lost within your own mind movie, the ‘A Moat You Can Stand In’ will shake you back to reality. A straightforward behemoth of a rocker that is probably one of the most ferocious, unrelenting tracks that they’ve ever done, almost reminiscent of Nick Cave in The Birthday Party days. Fiona Kitschin’s bass is growling, Dan Luscombe’s guitar is relentlessly distorted, Mike Noga’s drums are pounding and Liddiard is at his most aggressive, all combining to produce a song that could wear out the replay button.
The most striking pieces come in towards the end of the eight-track album. Laika is a captivating story about Laika the Soviet space dog that was launched into space with no hope of return. It’s a superbly orchestrated and heartfelt musical accompaniment for a very real, very weird story. Musically speaking, they match the life of Laika, with a sombre tone set as we are told Laika’s story. Its crescendo develops into a superb wall of sound, as she is launched and then pulls back to build again as the band, the music and Liddiard’s words almost scold the actions that have taken place. It’s truly a striking piece of music bringing every member’s ability and talent to the forefront.
Anyone that has listened to a Drones album knows that the album closers have always been a moment to remember. I See Seaweed’s epic nine-minute closer ‘Why Write A Letter You’ll Never Send’ may be the one to top them all. Hesketh’s addition on piano is strong in this lounge-like ballad filled with a long-winded, slightly tongue in cheek rant from Liddiard that covers everything, including the Holocaust, starvation, celebrities, “that guy from U2” and religion. Most definitely a grandly constructed piece to close an album with the rare power to actually take you for a ride.
It’s a Drones album through and through; it’s an instantly recognisable sound that is equal parts raucous and restrained. It’s an album filled with evidence of a band that don’t stick to a formula when creating and we’re definitely grateful for it. The Drones, keep on giving, in all their forms.
Drones drummer Mike Noga spoke to Vulture about the album. I See Seaweed is out March 1st and The Drones are touring in April