15 June 2009

The Drones

All Tomorrow's Parties, 2008

Most of my favourite songs by The Drones – and there are many – tell specific stories or describe particular scenes. The first one I ever heard was 'The Cockeyed Lowlife Of The Highlands', the opening track on their debut album, which just about blew my head off. It tells of a couple on the run after holding up a bank. "Margorie! It seems you're shaking, shaking, shaking so bad/ The pigs are gonna track us with a Richter scale!" yells one to the other. Then they get in the backseat, shoot up to calm down, and she kills him. (And while we're on that note, there is, I think, a lot to be said about the female characters in Gareth Liddiard's songs.)

Anyway, 'Luck In Odd Numbers', from last year's Havilah, isn't like that at all. It was the first thing I listened to in 2009 and, judging by how often I've played it since, it will be the last as well. I have no fucking clue what it is about. It is full of Biblical and geographical references – for example, it is the only song to actually mention Havilah, the name of the album and also a land of abundance spoken about in Genesis – along with the repetition of the numbers one, three, five, seven and nine. It goes on for eight and a half minutes, broken in two parts, and finishes in a deafening, wailing climax with the singer screaming out to God.

I have been trying to figure out exactly what it is about that song that led me to listen to it all week – which may sound ridiculous, like I'm over-thinking things for the point of it, but, you know, that is what I do – and, for the most part, I have been failing. Perhaps it's the rhythm and the sound, that epic sound of splintering guitars as large as the landscapes in the lyrics. Perhaps it's the beauty of the verses, like this one, that do nothing to explain what the song is about but tell a story in themselves: "And each chance I get to get close to you/ The shadows come and the late afternoon makes/ The warmth withdraw like a dive bell sinks/ And the air turns to octopus ink."

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