Vinyl Vlog 642

Vinyl Vlog 642

Wednesday, 27 March 2024
The Drowns – Blacked Out LP – “Banger”

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into The Drowns’ Blacked Out LP. While the number of ways that a band may choose to change their sound in the name of refreshing it or updating it are almost innumerable, what The Drowns have done on Blacked Out is genuinely impressive. This time out, the band has left most of the punk and hardcore are forms that the band has been developing and refining over the last few years behind and examined an older form of rock that with soul melodies and pop sensibilities in much the same way that The Bay City Rollers and T. Rex both did between 1971 and 1974, and yet still come away as still sounding like the band what released “She’s The Knife” and “Black Lung,” but also a band focused on chasing new inspiration.

The obvious desire to cover some new ground is apparent from the moment needle catches groove and “Banger” begins the movement of Blacked Out‘s A-side. There, with hand claps and a chunky bass line propelling the song, singer Aaron Peters brings some glam to his Boston-centered vocal pedigree as he chants and growls out his vocals – sometimes by the stanza and sometimes by the letter – in a manner which doesn’t overly spit syllables so much as sweet-talking its way through. It’s a much different style from The Drowns’ previous releases, and the result is that listeners will be drawn in far closer to see how the side will go.

After “Banger” sets the precedent for Blacked Out, The Drowns dig in a little deeper as the album’s A-side continues. “Kedamine & Cola” follows hot on the opener’s heels with a greater focus on vocal melody and vintage guitar styling, and the results are excellent; in fact, the song plays so well that “Banger” almost becomes forgettable in its wake. “Dynamite” tries to follow the example set by “Kedamine & Cola” but ends up coming in distantly behind it (as does “Just The Way She Goes” – which features a comparably mawkish and soft vocal performance), the side begins to recover when the title track employs some great, older school rock n’ roll vocal and instrumental cues and nicely informs “Yob On A Rampage” – which also includes some delivery styling which comes close to feeling County & Western in spite of the British colloquialisms.

As well as the A-side of Blacked Out played and really fleshed out what listeners thought they could expect for the duration of the album, The Drowns really throw a curveball to open the album’s B-side. “1979 Trans Am” lifts the drums from KISS’ “Rock and Roll All Nite” and just bounces along happily, using the song’s growling vocals as a counterpoint to its instrumentation before re-entering the punk stream with “All Charged Up” and then re-writing “Ballroom Blitz” and naming it “Chancer.” While readers may assume that contending any song simply re-writes another implies that “remake” is synonymous with “inferior,” they are absolutely incorrect. In “Chancer”’s case, the guitars run a great, road-ready rhythm that is positively infectious, while the song’s vocals hint at a mania which can only be called good rock n’ roll and the song charges along while taking no prisoners for slightly less than three minutes before clapping shut. Reviewing the song that way is accurate, but it still doesn’t do “Chancer” the justice it deserves; it is raucous, has power for days and really energizes the final quarter of Blacked Out‘s running – after “Chancer,” “Wheels” features a rolling guitar and bass performance which comes close to sounding like a really, really lean-running Ramones cut and “Don’t Have A Job” tries to celebrate unemployment (although Peters doesn’t really sound committed to the song’s inspiration) and then the side closes both sharply and with surprise on “Born To Die In NYC.” There, The Drowns completely step out of the mix and leave Peters alone with a piano plying gently as the singer laments missed opportunities before closing out the album’s play. Now, there’s no question about “Born To Die In NYC”’s quality as the song and the precedent for a punk band stepping out to let their singer play a piano ballad was set long ago (The Replacements were famous for it – as were New York Dolls), but that The Drowns do it as the final note on Blacked Out is still pretty surprising and may have listeners going back after the needle lifts to see if there were hints at where Blacked Out was headed before “Born To Lose In NYC” actually went there and listeners simply didn’t realize.

After one runs front-to-back with Blacked Out, listeners won’t be able to deny that, while The Drowns touch all the bases they expect after the band charts their course through the album, the band still has some surprises up their collective sleeve which can hook listeners pretty hard and in some really unexpected ways. As they walk away from it, listeners may find themselves hoping that The Drowns will do something comparable to Blacked Out again soon – this critic certainly does. [Bill Adams]


Further Reading:
Vinyl Vlog 549 – The Drowns – Lunatics EP
Vinyl Vlog 422 – The Drowns – Under Tension LP
Vinyl Vlog 403 – the Drowns – Hold Fast 12’’ single

Blacked Out is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.

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