Words by Matt Hall
– Read our interview with The Drones’ drummer Christian Strybosch here
There is a particular kind of nostalgia that we associate with music. Whether it’s that heavy radio played track we had a passing fancy with in our childhood, or a record that we devoted ourselves to as teens that recalls, specifically, where we were, what we were doing, and even how we felt when we listened to it a decade ago.
For me, The Drones’ Wait Long By The River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By fits into the latter. But as you get older, spending time with the whole record makes way for putting a couple of your favourites onto a playlist, and then it completely falls out of your rotation. Until of course, you find that old CD, or you’re transferring your music onto yet another external hard-drive, or a reunion happens and reminds you of how much you once loved a record. This album puts me right back there in my teen years, rocking out alone in my bedroom.
Wait Long almost makes me nostalgic for rock & roll as a genre, but I think I’m a bit too young for the ‘back in my day’ rhetoric. Still though, if I were a little more cynical I would say something like: They don’t make rock records like this anymore.
The album itself is masterfully crafted, employing highs and lows, and lights and shades, to take you from introspective moody blues to pumped up rock and roll jams. It centres on the sharp blues-rock guitars and the vocal harmonies of lead singer Gareth Liddiard and his compadres Rui Pereira (guitar, vocals, violin), Fiona Kitschin (bass, vocals, piano), and Christian Strybosch (drums, vocals).
The opening cut Shark Fin Blues is nothing short of a rock and roll odyssey. It sucks you in from the first lick and doesn’t let go for the proceeding five minutes. In 2009, contemporary artists voted it as Australia’s greatest song, and you can see why. It is an adventurous track that isn’t afraid to shift tempos as it takes you on its journey. Kicking your teeth in with distorted guitars one minute and lulling you along with foot-tapping sing-alongs the next. You’re almost afraid to breathe when it slows, as you know at any moment it might be gearing up for another overwhelming wall of guitar noise, or another auditory assault from Gareth’s scratched out baritone.
In some respects you could almost accuse the record of slacker lyricism, and I’m sure that if I heard other artists proclaim that they were ‘sitting on the edge of the bed cryin’, I would roll my eyes and skip the track. But like great blues singers you can hear the melancholy in Liddiard’s voice, bubbling under the surface and erupting in sadness when necessary. I wouldn’t compare the poetry in The Drone’s lyrics to Nick Cave, or Lou Reed, but much like those artists it feels as if Gareth’s dramatic delivery could make almost anything sound interesting. In a word you could describe the singing as urgent, and the urgency is infectious. The pitchy, squealing guitars, the thudding bass lines, the raucous drums, they all feel important, necessary, and powerful.
The album dances the line between rock and roll repetitions and elongated story telling, perfectly executing the juxtaposition. Whether it’s the catchy chorus in Baby2, or the slow building intro to Locust that consists only of Gareth’s voice and sparse piano keys, every song on the album has something that will catch your ear. Wait Long is the perfect amalgamation of blues, rock, with some pop and punk thrown in for good measure. It’s a unique production, but even more importantly, it’s a god damn fun record to rock out to.
And although it’s already been ten years since Wait Long’s release still feels as fresh and sharp as it did in 2005. Now maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking, or the fact that there seems to be less and less “guitar bands” nowadays. But one thing I’m sure of is that as my hair turns grey and falls out, I’ll be one of those assholes saying: Golly, they don’t make albums like this anymore.