red lights


Dark, dangerous and diverting

The Drones - Gala Mill
(ATP Recordings)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 11, 2007
The Drones

Review by Tony Bonyata

On The Drones third album, Gala Mill, the Australian rock quartet delivers their most fully realized effort to date. Mixing the fuzzy, dissonant guitars from garage rock, along with dark lyrical content and pent up passion, they've concocted a volatile recording that turns out to be a dangerously alluring affair

Recorded in an old mill on a 10,000 acre farm on the east coast of Tasmania the sound that churns through these nine lengthy tracks is that of unabashed freedom. On the energized rocker, "I Don't Ever Want To Change," a speeding rhythm section collides with the searing guitar shrapnel of Rui Pereira (who, it should be noted, has recently left the band to be replaced by guitarist Dan Luscombe, who also provides some slide guitar on Gala Mill). On this same number singer Gareth Liddiard spits out his take on depression and denial with the unbridled verve of both fellow Aussie rocker Nick Cave and Iggy Pop. Throughout other tracks Liddiard also channels some of the vocal characteristics of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan for equally hypnotic results.

What's surprising is that buried not too deep beneath the mirth and mayhem lurks some beautifully indelible songs. "I Looked Down The Line And I Wondered" opens up as a sparse garage ballad that swells into a lovely, yet angst-ridden chorus, which finds Liddiard vocally purging his own demons over a musical arrangement incorporating some of the atonal dissonance of The Velvet Underground. Likewise, the track "I'm Here Now," which deals with witnessing friends slip into drug abuse, starts out as a plugged-in dirge but progresses into a hook-filled and impassioned, pulpit-pounding sermon.

On the harrowing "Words From The Executioner To Andrew Pearce," the foursome tackle the local historical story of notorious convict Pearce who escaped twice from Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlement - both times cannibalizing his fellow escapees while traveling through the Tasmanian Wilderness. Even the subject matter on the eight-minute opener, "Jezebel," which sounds like a starker number from Nick Cave's early Aussie punk band The Birthday Party, uses a variety of oddities for lyrical content, such as nuclear testing in Australia, the 2002 murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and, erm... a cow that glows in the dark.

While lyrically it all comes off a bit too morose, as a complete musical package The Drones have succeeded in creating a challenging, intoxicating new rock album with Gala Mill.

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