Like a cry echoing from the 30th floor into the industrial buzz of the city below, vocals can become simply another element of the woozy, trippy swirl of percussion, beats, strings and keyboards on Good Songs For Bad People.
Girl-group choruses suggest strawberry milkshakes in a 50s diner, but squelchy basslines and jazzy melodies provide an injection of urbanity and rebelliousness. Asia and Chris met in their late teens working in the same factory, where they bonded over a love of jazz.
The duo have artfully combined flute, guitars, vibraphones and drum machines without the heavy-handedness of some excited artists given open range on instruments. ‘Just Me And You’ is a straight up love song, combining Phil Spector-ish falsetto choruses with snare drums and the slightly foreboding, spare keyboard chords of Hitchcock murder scenes.
‘Live Free And Die When It’s Cool’ is a scuzzy, post-punk ode to industrial streetscapes. Comparisons aren’t fair, but indulge me in what Drab City are not. There’s nothing of the sickeningly earnest sweetness of Belle and Sebastian, though the swirling, whirling melodies and harmonising are a common link.
“…a tight, refined collection rather than trying to make up for any weaknesses by throwing in everything they’ve got plus a free knife set.”
There’s nothing of the gritty, LA blues of The Kills, but the sexy grunge of New York and LA streets, pared back guitars with a hardcore addiction to the reverb pedal, rivals their rock royalty brethren. The trip hop vibe is very 90s Massive Attack/Tricky where female r’n’b vocals are complimented by chilled out, instrumental dance hooks. They peddle dreamy, melodic pop that bounces over suspenseful, melancholy instrumentation and antisocial anthems.
Listening to it makes me envision a TV theme soundtrack to something like Mad Men, if all the characters awoke from the dead and began to eat humans. Its vintage stylings adorn a gothic, hungry heart. At 10 tracks, Drab City have kept their debut to a tight, refined collection rather than trying to make up for any weaknesses by throwing in everything they’ve got plus a free knife set.
The album artwork is their own, their videos look like they’re filmed by a friend (and probably are). The DIY, punk attitude towards music making is refreshing when sometimes hype and TikTok videos make it hard to get excited about what’s new. Keep an eye and an ear on Drab City. I am calling it early, but I suspect we’ll see and hear a lot more from them once touring and normality resumes.