[sic] Magazine

The Drones – Havilah

I’ve set myself the almost impossible task of talking about this album without name checking any Australian bands. I need to get a few out of my system though. The Church, The Triffids, Nick Cave. There is a certain strain of Aussie rock that I will label junk basement. Not that I’m saying The Drones are junkies (it’s more a drinkers album if anything). But this is certainly rock for after dark. It does have classic Australian rock values – literate but unpretentious, not without ambition (and progression from past work, though I’ve only found them recently) but without any fat. The accent is so strong it makes the mind go towards obvious comparisons, but a good few listens to opener ‘Nail It Down’ and a very scuffed up Grant Hart in Nova Mob times is revealed.

This is rolling thunder R&R, elemental like Neil Young at his fiercest. It isn’t often that older musicians can equal the power and chutzpah of Youth but this is an album that does – while being a work of maturity (which should be a criticism, but for once isn’t). ‘Minotaur’ is a punch in the face punker (I’d mention The Saints but I promised) and manages along with the piss and vigor to be funny. Delirium tremolo thug melodic with lines like “he does not move – spends all day watching porno and playin’ fuckin’ Halo 2”. “Veni, Vidi, Vici” the DTs conquer all.

This album is shortlisted for the ARIA awards (the approximate Australian equivalent of the Mercury Prize). God knows how good the other entries would have to be to beat it. The Antipodeans have sewn up the zeitgeist with the Modular label. It seems as though they have an eye to the past too – The Drones are a classic act without being in thrall to it. This album is instantly timeless. It refuses to be disposable.

‘The Drifting Housewife’ and ‘Cold and Sober’ are Stones’ like laments, ‘I Am The Supercargo’ is pure Paisley Underground, which come to think of it may be what I find most absorbing about The Drones. This most under-rated and under acknowledged genre of 80’s music was (despite being mainly American.) taken up with aplomb by Aussie bands. This is desert sky music, both forlorn and raging within the same song – “the best they can be hoping for is dying in their sleep”.

The flow of the album takes on the peaks and troughs of a lost weekend – by turns cocky, angry, sorry, self-loathing and finally hopeful (at least musically on the up-beat ‘Your Acting’s Like The End Of The World’) – but you wouldn’t bet against the bottle being picked up again. This is an album on the edge of the plains – sometimes you can go back to the honky tonk in town to drown your sorrows, other nights you just want to take off into the desert and lie under the stars and take stock. A class album by a class band. Not just a class Australian band.



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