The Drones

Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By

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Melbourne, Australia's Drones had a lot to live up to after their debut, Here Come the Lies. That recording, equally split between covers and originals, is now regarded as a an Aussie garage band classic in the same way that recordings by Scientists, Lime Spiders, the Saints, Beasts of Bourbon, Died Pretty (Free Dirt), and even Radio Birdman have been heralded. Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By is by contrast a furthering of that vision and a slight turn into darker territory, with all self-penned material. The guitars still blaze, distorted and wild, Gareth Liddiard's voice is still more howl and growl than croon, and the needle of the recording machine is in the red more often than not. Thank goodness. One listen to "Baby²" is enough to confirm this in spades. Stomp, swagger, and pummel, with smoking hooks and a healthy disregard for rock's current conventions offer proof that this is an album that could only have come from down under. But there's something else, too, as the album's opener, "Shark Fin Blues," attests -- the songs themselves have taken on a more narrative and darker bent lyrically. Indeed, were it not for the overloaded six-strings burning through the heart of the mix, one could swear that Simon Bonney wrote these forlorn, doomed-man-at-sea lyrics for the Crime & the City Solution's Bride Ship disc: "Standing on the deck watching my shadow stretch/The sun pours down upon the deck/The water's licking around my ankles now/There ain't no sunshine way way down...." On the slower tunes, like "The Best You Can Believe In," the pace snakes and crawls one moment and the choruses explode in scree and fierce wailing feedback, although tempered by hooky backing vocals that counter Liddiard's tortured hollering.

"Locust" is a fine if demented rock & roll drinking song that plays itself out like a country ballad done by the Bad Seeds gone off the rails, gathering steam and tension until it turns back on itself and caves in altogether. This is a kind of darkly humorous horror music about harmless drinking turned into virulent alcoholism and addiction. The sprawl and crank is back on "You Don't Really Care," where the band sounds like the Cramps, the Gun Club, and Scientists all combining members. It simply spits and screams its whiskey-bent and hell-bound lyrics into the void of blackness, and rages and swaggers all the way. "Sitting on the Edge of the Bed Cryin'" is as spooky a ballad as has been written recently, until the tension becomes so great that it explodes in blues skronk and swill, yet never loses sight of its hunted slide guitar hook. This is a kind of blues-country from hell, as if Dock Boggs had fronted a rock band. Here humor and pathos, nihilism and the hope for redemption fight to the death inside Liddiard's voice as his mates -- Mike Noga (drums), Fiona Kitschin (bass), and Rui Pereira (guitar) -- carry him back and forth from the sheer pit of darkness up to an Earth that's been scorched, so he can laugh and wail with grief in fits and starts. On "This Time," the track that closes the set, an organ conspires with the quartet in a spirit of dread and sorrow, but Liddiard lets it all speak for itself and sums up the album in turn: "There's a feeling on the road tonight/Something out there waits with eyes/There's a feeling on the road tonight...this time...." Oh yeah, it's ugly, frantic, and reeling and careening with untamed savagery, yet comes running at the wall with an overwhelming ravaged tenderness in the heart of the shambolic, raging maelstrom.

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