All music has a genesis, a time and place from which to crawl forth out of its respective spring of primordial ooze. Whether amassed in the garage surrounded by Dad’s tools and the rusted-out deathtrap, huddled in Izzy’s basement immersed in precariously leaning piles of knick-knacks and knotted Christmas decorations, poised in front of the TV with your Rock Band drinking buddies, or tucked into a cobwebbed alcove by your lonesome with a PC and a sampling/editing program, it doesn’t matter. Music’s gotta start somewhere. With the self-release of their debut album “Second Coming” fast approaching (July 29th through Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify), Essex rock quintet The Dropper’s Neck have done one better: They’ve made a name for themselves not just in finding music in the garage, but in bringing the garage and the noise mined therein out of the house and to the masses of the UK underground scene.
“Second Coming” is a what-you-hear-is-what-you-get collection of Indie-Punkabilly jams seasoned with a liberal dose of garage riff-rock. For a band that only felt its birth-cry in 2011, there is a casually refined, devil-may-care feel to most (if not all) of the material. I was impressed by this fact, and I believe these five guys have got a lot of potential.
There is noticeable energy in this nine-song set, a kind of vivacity-cum-ugliness that is coveted here and serves the band well. This obvious homage to the bleeding-raw, bootlegged quality of the tapes and records of punk’s past does much to put you in the shoes of the small club-goer, the stage-hugging, avid fan/follower, or perhaps those of the band members themselves. That being said, I feel that hearing the album as I did (unable to see this band at their most active, in a live setting) robs the listener of something. The Dropper’s Neck are clearly a performing group. From this vantage-point, the story’s only been half-told, and I believe I would’ve enjoyed this offering more through speaker cabinets and PA rather than closed-back headphones or truck speakers. Still, it had its strengths.
The sometimes-dueling guitars of George Barrows and Chris Blake are simple but simultaneously wild and raucous. Though frequently comfortable enough to test a musical balance between silliness and seriousness in a song’s execution, they have a good sense of one another, each apparently aware of their place in the rhythm-lead relationship and never deliberately straying too far. I get aural snapshots throughout of Black Flag’s “Room 13”, “Reprovisional” from Fugazi’s excellent album “Repeater”, and “Tangled Up in Plaid” from Queens of the Stone Age, among others.
Bassist Jack Turner’s accompaniment is brooding, almost flatulent, and offers a steady, lingering counterpoint to fellow string-slingers Barrows and Blake and the tasteful busyness of drummer Danny Keene’s active toms and pingy ride.
If there is a weak link to the line-up, I see it in the vocal work of frontman Lloyd Mathews. Though the lyrics are a bit hokey and thrown-together occasionally, not meshing well with the music, this does add to the home-brewed charm of what the band might well be intending. Mathews’ real failing is in his delivery, too-often a droning sulkiness that hovers over his bandmates’ unified-but-happily-haphazard orchestrations like film on a cold bowl of soup rather than as an ingredient that would doubtless offer a different flavor if allowed to better permeate the mix. He can scream his lungs out and succeeds in spicing up some tracks (particularly the aptly named “Abrasive”) more than adequately in the process. Regardless, I couldn’t shake my first impressions of a thinly veiled, poor imitation of Queens of the Stone Age crooner Josh Homme or Guy McKnight of the now-defunct Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster rather than a voice as original as the music on “Second Coming” is attempting to be. Single “Darker Waters”, as well as “Abrasive” and fourth track “Three Little Pigs” are arguably Mathews’ most vital contributions to the whole. The rest can be, at times, unlistenable.
I am thrilled that a young band such as The Dropper’s Neck has been able to attain the level of exposure that they have in short time with relatively no help outside of their own efforts and the handy distribution tools of the online marketplace. However, despite the truthfulness of the music and careful documentation by renowned producer Paul Tipler, “Second Coming” feels a like the declaration of a band coming along too fast. There’s a lot of promise in the parts, but with a measure of public and critical success already behind them as they are, a period of incubation for the whole—while possibly beneficial—might be out of line. Time away might make for an eventual Triple Threat, but cut the ride short prematurely, and it’s right back to the garage and Dad’s rusted-out deathtrap….