With greater potential in its body than maybe actually exposed in its fiery riot, Neurotica: A Compendium of Tales Regarding Body and Mind the new album from UK punks DRAG, is nevertheless a rather compelling and increasingly enjoyable provocation to get teeth and thoughts into. Nine tracks of old school seeded punk with as much of a nineties twist to its predation as modern inventions, the release is an attention grabbing and imagination stirring entrance by the Midlands quartet.
Since forming, the Birmingham four-piece has earned a strong reputation through their live presence which has seen them play alongside the likes of Toyah Wilcox, SPiT LiKE THiS, Eureka Machines, Fuzzbox, Mister Joe Black, The Sex Pistols Experience, The Ramonas, and Amanda Palmer, as well as a couple of earlier EPs. Their sound as evidenced on the crowd funded Neurotica, is like a raw and antagonistic merger of Au-Pairs and L7 with just as healthy essences of In Evil Hour and Penetration. It is a mix which you expect to be explosive and for the main is within the potent album, though it does miss that key spark to set the promise openly surging through its creativity and sound truly ablaze.
With songs which look at uncompromising themes ranging from self-harm, mental health, to sexuality, Neurotica takes little time in awakening attention and appetite with the opening title track. From the initial scrub of acidic guitar punctuated by thumping beats, the song takes a swift hold and even more so when the band expel a raw and flame of attitude and sonic causticity led by vocalist Heather. The track snarls and rumbles enticingly with the bass of Matt and abrasing guitar craft of Velma crafting an infectious web framed by the punchy rhythms of drummer Andy. Littered with resourcefully catchy hooks around the appealing vocals, it is a formidable and convincing start to entwine thoughts and emotions easily.
The following Fine with its opening moody bass tempting also needs little effort to engage ears and imagination, its strong initial lure expanding into a more reserved but no less potent expanse of rapacious enterprise and contagious provocation. It is not a song to startle but certainly keeps the initial impact of the album high before the mighty Axewound preys on the senses. Lyrically and musically it takes no prisoners, with that earlier Au Pairs reference at its most open on both aspects, the raw and honest approach very similar to that offered a few decades ago by those fellow Brummie protagonists. The track is alive with agitated rhythms, intrigue spiced hooks, and a ferocious breath which all combines for one of the major highlights of the album pushing forward the exciting potential of the band.
Next up The Ugly romps with rhythmic bait which inspires another wash of greed to an already hungry appetite whilst the grizzled bass tone found by Matt grumbles potently within the weave of sonic and defiant endeavour. The song keeps things roaring nicely but does lack the stature and persuasion of its predecessors as does in some ways Dandy Boy, though in other aspects it stands out pleasingly. A union of acoustic guitar and the melodic tones of Heather, her voice revealing more of its strength here than at any other point of the release, the song gently caresses and provokes, keeping its poise and lure as the rest of the band bring their evocative touches to the increasingly intensive track. Keys add good expression to the song too though it also feels like there is a spark missing to really exploit its creative strength, something which applies to Neurotica as a whole.
Shock & Bad Taste with its more defined L7 lures comes next to set feet and reactions on eager edge, its riling riffs and jabbing rolling beats as inviting as the vocal belligerence and sonic entrapment colouring the richly satisfying track. It is soon left sounding a little pale though by Hell 7 (American Mary), the track a ferocious scorching of corrosive riffs and merciless rhythms from the first second which settles into a less threatening gait for a few breaths before unleashing a chorus which gnaws at the senses with anthemic mastery. Again it is fair to say that there is not much to challenge the boundaries of punk rock but plenty to give it an invigorating incitement.
The album is brought to a close by firstly the pleasing Wet with its scowling sound and challenging premise, and lastly through the predatory stalking of Dead Zebra. Both tracks ignite another wave of satisfaction if again failing to match previous heights upon the album; the forced vocal growls offered by Heather in the last of the two an element which defuses the potency of the song and leaves thoughts feeling unconvinced for the only time. Each song still leaves Neurotica: A Compendium of Tales Regarding Body and Mind on a high with that rich promise flooding both, as it does the album, to leave pleasure high and excited anticipation over DRAG ahead.
Neurotica: A Compendium of Tales Regarding Body and Mind is available now on the band’s own Sleazy Punk Records @ http://dragbirmingham.bandcamp.com/album/neurotica-a-compendium-of-tales-regarding-body-mind-2
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