By rights, Drenge should be much bigger than they are. The Loveless brothers’ (yes, that is their real name) first two albums – 2013’s self-titled debut and 2015’s acerbic, outstanding ‘Undertow‘ – were triumphs full of brittle, bone-shaking riffs and sharp-tongued lyrics that were as sardonic as they were cutting. When the Derbyshire duo supported Wolf Alice at London’s O2 Academy Brixton in 2015, it felt like they could easily make the step up to headlining that iconic venue themselves shortly after.
That’s still yet to happen and, if you’re waiting for a record to get the duo to the level of recognition they should have been at long ago, their new EP ‘Autonomy’ isn’t it. That’s not to say it’s bad – it’s not; it’s perfectly fine. But it fails to inspire the same feelings of excitement that their past releases did and that’s a disappointment.
On the title track, the beefiness of their past records is gone, replaced by wiry layers that build up like a mesh of barbed wire ready to lacerate the unsuspecting. What comes is more subtle than that, Eoin Loveless quietly asking: “When they look in the mirror, what do they see? Do they see badly dressed, overweight autonomy?“
‘Outside’ is dark and stormy, Eoin’s voice breaking with anger as he rasps: “I need to know what’s wrong with me.” Later, he warns, “You better lawyer up” but, during a squall of blustery guitar noise and brother Rory’s clattering, strong drums, attempts to soften his approach. “I won’t hurt you,” he mutters, but sounds like the opposite is true, especially as his claim is immediately followed by a return to his hoarse frustration.
‘Before The War Begins’ could be classic Drenge, but falls flat, like a meat hammer has been taken to it, beating the juiciness out of it. Luckily, there’s ‘Fades To Black’ to rescue things. There’s a low-key Smithsian jangle to some of the guitar melodies, which whip up images of cold, windy moors, and some astute observations in its lyrics, such as, “The grass is always greener but so are the weeds.” But the track’s most thrilling part comes in the instrumental bridge – a battering, bruising moment that would just as easily be at home on a metal song as it is here.
‘Autonomy’ might not be Drenge’s finest moment but, as a stopgap between LPs, it’s an adequate appetiser that’ll send you back to devour their albums once again without destroying your faith that album three could be The One.