I See Seaweed
This, the fifth full-lengther from Australian band The Drones, is everything Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds fans could want if they didn’t get that already from the band’s new album. It’s the other side. It’s Nick Cave’s current writing ability going back to infuse the grunt, the attitude, the sea-saw of The Birthday Party or Boys Next Door.
The Drones have always known how to nail long songs – but I See Seaweed has an intensity not (quite) present on their previous releases. There’s more tension too; we get that instantly from the title song. Gareth Liddiard writes great short-story songs and then he steps up to step inside each track, often totally killing it, all but mutilating the song from the inside, his voice camouflaged within the song to begin with but soon kicking and screaming, pulling and tearing to get out. So very noticeable, soon the only thing left as it tears down and bites through the song-structure.
And the stop-start/whisper-scream dynamic of the band instrumentally, built up over the last decade, is particularly impressive on this new set of songs. There’s the rawness too of the early PJ Harvey records but with this razor-sharp band bursting from the garage, with an angry, cocky swagger. There’s almost a punk ethos – in the playing. But these guys are too good to suffer that relegation.
With Dirty Three-drumming, Bad Seeds-keys and Rowland S.Howard-guitar sounds to study, to grow up with, to now dine out on, The Drones are building on the best their country has had to offer whilst doing their best to tear that same country down in some of the album’s lyrical polemic (A Moat You Can Stand In). This will probably put off a lot of people – and it shouldn’t – but I often think of an angrier Midnight Oil when hearing this album (well, a different kind of anger at least).
At times an uncomfortable listen, never easy, always devastating, I find the relentlessness of I See Seaweed warm and inviting simply because The Drones are so fucking good. They have been for a long time. Here it feels like a real step up. They’ve moved up a gear.