Drenge are two loud, angsty youths who have taken the UK’s grottiest music venues by storm. Their serving of harsh, wailing vocals and thrashing guitar has been at the forefront of 2013/14’s replacement of shoegaze electro snorepop (or whatever Pitchfork was touting in 2011) with gritty, basic garage rock. Their performance at last year’s Glastonbury was enough to catch the attention of Labour MP Tom Watson, going on to name drop them to Ed Miliband in his resignation letter. The debut album was yet another success for the young band, with critics and fans falling for their brand of modern two-piece grunge.
But it would seem the drive has somewhat grinded to a halt, due to exhaustion from excessive touring, an inability to generate much original invention beyond the band’s debut last year, and an almost absurd need to enact the grunge persona. Drummer Rory’s hair is now so long and positioned around his face to make him look more than passably like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family. The gig upstairs in the Oxford O2 Academy was so lacking in energy and enthusiasm that watching the poor geezer in front of me try to work out whether or not he was going to chunder was at times far more entertaining.
That’s not to say Drenge weren’t trying; singer and guitarist Eoin Loveless is wailing with the very best vigour he can manage, but with the crumbling drums and the guitar overdriving so hard it sounds like an amp having an aneurism, it blends into a messy, grimy soundscape of gloop, rather like musical treacle. But treacle, although delicious at the start, but soon your mouth sticks together and you get a tummy ache. Quite a severe one for the poor bugger in front. Even the extensive mosh pit, which began with such violent passion, has to accept defeat in the mucky moments, and the individuals involved stand and sway slightly bewilderedly. I, meanwhile, am looking at my watch.
Here was an hour’s long example of why you can have too much of a good thing. Whilst the rough sound of Drenge is what brought them fame, they need to respect, refine and develop it for a clearer, more original and faster paced live performance.