In the woozy wake of Drake, The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller and Post Malone’s über-laid-back R&B, you’d have thought there was simply no more room for navel-gazing, sex-fixated dudes with bachelor pads full of Sade records, lava lamps and above-average-priced vodka. And yet here come the rather impressive THEY., oozing sauciness as well as some of the most deeply atmospheric tunes this side of The Weeknd’s 2015 smasher ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’.
By slightly twisting the sex-pop formula with the addition of gritty guitars, Los Angeles-based vocalist Drew Love and producer Dante Jones manage to reinvigorate the smooth sound of the millennial bunk-up with grit and edge borrowed from the class of 1993. They might have first come to attention thanks to a collaboration with Skrillex and by making beats for Will.i.am, but Jones has made much of Kurt Cobain being his favourite songwriter.
While ‘Nü Religion: HYENA’ isn’t quite a sizzurp-drenched ‘Nevermind’, there’s some serious strumming on the vibey ‘What You Want’ that gives it a rawness Drizzy would give away his copy of Skepta’s ‘Konnichiwa’ for. And while Drake seems to spend most of his time moping about his love life, THEY. are comfortable taking on the bigger issues. The powerful ‘Say When’ directly tackles police brutality and Black Lives Matter over grungy guitars and ghostly beats (“Now shoot down my brothers / And let them fall /And then we some thugs if we get involved”).
Strangely, though, the album’s highlight is ‘Dante’s Creek’, which sees the theme tune of 1990s teen cry-fest drama Dawson’s Creek reimagined as a slinky soundtrack to seduction. THEY. aren’t afraid of being heard. From the rattling bass on ‘Back It Up’ to the incessant foghorn sample on the dubby ‘U-RITE’, these are sounds made for playing loud, something Cobain would no doubt approve of. When ‘Motley Crew’ explodes into life the beats course through your entire body. THEY. are here not just for your ears, but your entire being. Let them have it.