Drowners ‘Drowners’ / Skaters ‘Manhattan’ – Review

3 Mar

Drowners and Skaters are tour mates who seem to have spent much of the past year trying to out-strokes each other. Skaters have an album called ‘Manhattan’ which features a song called ‘To Be Young In NYC’. Drowners have a leather clad model on their cover alongside an amalgamation of the British and American flag. Both play tightly wound, scuzzy guitar pop. Fittingly then ‘Drowners’ and ‘Manhattan’ try to split the difference between the New York and New Yorkshire scenes of a decade ago. Neither band are dissimilar to indie also-rans Pigeon Detectives or Razorlight, which is about the most unkind thing you could say to a new band in 2014. Only, you get the impression Drowners and Skaters really wouldn’t be offended by that comparison. And why should they be? Pigeon Detectives and Razorlight had a knack for commercially viable and catchy guitar-pop songs – there are worse things to aspire to than that.

Both bands feature British born guitarists, and they accurately convey the wide-eyed wonder that goes alongside moving to a big city and suddenly realising you aren’t so unique after all. In fact, these albums are built around the idea of being young, happily lost and exactly like every other young person on the planet. So here we are in a city where ‘all the girls had long hair’  and where they intend to hang around ‘long enough to be part of the furniture’. These guys have no innate ambition, and they have no aspiration other than fitting in and trying very, very hard to seem cool and debauched. Whether you enjoy these albums or not will depend on whether you thing this is an endearing trait. Both bands bet everything on the fact that you will.

You can comfortably listen to both albums back to back in an hour, and everything has been streamlined with a sense of forward propulsion to make that time pass quite quickly and rather frantically. Skaters make half-hearted efforts at groove on the ragaee influenced ‘Band Breaker’ and ‘Feare of the Knife’ but otherwise both bands rhythm sections have little to do. In fact they make The Strokes sound like the funkiest band on the planet, and as I pointed out in the opening line of this review, both Skaters and Drowners desperately, desperately, want to be The Strokes. But sounding like The Strokes circa ‘Is This It’ is difficult – so difficult that even The Strokes can’t do it anymore. Drowners and Skaters lack the precision, technical ability and ambition to make the sound stick. Where ‘Is This It’ felt lived in, dirty and genuinely, unattainably cool, Drowners and Skaters come over like a bunch of loser kid wannabees from the suburbs trying to live a life they just weren’t meant for. But there is something very human in that – afterall, we’ve all felt like a small fish in a big city at some point. We’ve all wanted to fit in and we’ve all wanted to appear cool. It makes them all the more likeable in my book.

And yet cool bands, like cool individuals, don’t have to try to be cool, they just are. ‘Skaters’ and ‘Drowners’ best imitation of their favourite band is ultimately not a lot more than that – a charming imitation. Neither band possess a great singer, or great guitarists, and their lyrics are lightweight and superfluous. They just don’t have anything particularly interesting to say. To their credit they know how to write catchy melodies, and Skaters especially, have penned some memorable hooks. ‘I want to dance but I don’t know how’ is one of last years most arresting choruses and the ones on ‘Deadbolt’ and ‘Miss Teen Masachuttess’ are nearly as good. Drowners haven’t written anything as memorable, but their album is the more consistent of the two. Ultimately these are a bunch of fast and crude rock n roll songs about being rejected, time and time again, and wanting to fit in whilst standing out of the crowd. Who can’t relate to that? They are certainly not the first, and probably not the last, band who want to be The Strokes, and they won’t be the first or last young men who want so dearly to be something more than they are.

Drowners – 6.5

Skaters – 7

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