Rory and Eoin Loveless’ debut is a sardonic, punky and deeply British twist on the rock double act
As soon as you hear the name, you know full well Drenge aren’t going to be easy on the ear. Despite hailing from the quaint English village of Castleton – a picturesque tourist trap in the Peak District that’s all rolling green hills, dad-friendly dry stone walls and a disproportionate number of casual fleece-wearers – this isn’t the kind of stuff that you’ll be able to natter about with your nan over a nice cream tea.
Instead, Drenge are a clatter-skrunk pairing made up of brothers Rory and Eoin Loveless. Aptly, they’re wiry slips of lads in their early twenties who make for a pleasingly feral coupling, looking like they’ve been raised on a strict diet of K cider, egg butties and unfulfilling fumbles in the busted passenger seat of a ninth-hand Skoda. Unlike, say, Yuck, who take a gross name and turn it on its head, contrarily making pleasant alt.pop, Drenge are true to their phonics, subjecting listeners to a gnarly, ultra-funky – and that’s in the stinky sense, not the Nile Rodgers sense – aural pummelling. With their debut album coming out through Infectious – the independent label that soothed the souls of the nation with the rather more dulcet tones of Alt-J, Local Natives and The Temper Trap – Drenge again go for the literal interpretation, sounding like something unsavoury you might catch after a sloppy snog by the swings.
Yet they’re a sickness it’s well worth getting a repeat prescription of antibiotics for, even if you’re former Labour MP Tom Watson, who notoriously endorsed the band in his recent resignation letter to Ed Miliband, leading to give-a-toss shrugs from the band.
Though other duos – namely The White Stripes and The Black Keys – have been heavily referenced when it comes to these sardonic, shuffle-punk newcomers, neither quite fit. Whereas both of those acts are steeped in immutable Americana, rooted in the Delta blues and 1950s R&B, Drenge instead bring a deeply British twist to the rock double act. The vicious, unforgiving ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’, with frontman Eoin’s rasping threat to “make you run to the hills/make you piss your pants”, not only gives an insolent, lyrical nod to UK metallers Iron Maiden, but is a line you really can’t imagine Dan Auerbach howling after he’s bragged to everyone about all the gold on his ceiling. Auerbach never made anyone piss their pants. Rory and Eoin Loveless just might have.
The delivery on ‘Nothing’ has a touch of the Alex Turners about it, sounding like a brutal version of Arctic Monkeys in a long-lost squalling soul phase, complete with awkwardly intense lyrics about public humiliation. Elsewhere, the visceral ‘Backwaters’, a shredding, quaking grunt of small-town staleness, comes over like Black Sabbath after they’ve obliterated all of Motörhead’s speed, and ‘Bloodsports’ proves that early 2000s art-punks The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Ikara Colt did not spend the early 2000s thrashing in squalid Camden pubs in vain.
Drenge don’t totally ignore the influence of America – they just take the piss out of it instead. ‘I Don’t Want To Make Love To You’, a sarky riposte to the Willie Dixon-penned Etta James hit ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’, has a go at chatting up the classic track before making wanker signs behind its back. The closest the band get to real romance is on album closer ‘Fuckabout’. After 11 tracks of ruthless rock’n’roll, and following the eight minute-long grubby glam stomper ‘Let’s Pretend’, it brings proceedings to a mellifluously bleak end, like Evan Dando going for a thoughtful stroll by the River Derwent. “I don’t give a fuck, about people in love/They don’t piss me off, they just make me give up”, sighs Eoin diffidently. As changes of pace go, it should be far more jarring than it actually is, but instead it shows a much softer side to a band who should own this summer with their brilliantly heavy two-man mania.