I get to hear a lot of good albums writing for TINAS, as well as through my own aural explorations, but it would be hard to make a case for many of them being important or entirely necessary. Not so with “Neurotica: A Compendium of Tales Regarding Body and Mind”, the debut album from Drag, a punk four-piece from Birmingham, England.
As you can tell from its title they aren’t snotty dumb-ass punks, riot grrrl being a better comparison, despite two of the bands being guys. This release and the return of the riot grrrl ethos is timely as talk is of a rise of online misogyny and with the male musical landscape pockmarked by everything from the appalling ‘Blurred Lines’ of Robin Thicke to the irony-wash cock rock revivalism of Steel Panther.
The arty indie cabaret of Dresden Dolls are an admitted influence on the band, but it’s the high, tremulous androgyny of Brian Molko from Placebo that vocalist Heather most often reminds you of, especially on the one lighter, piano-lead number ‘Dandy Boy’. What is more striking is what Heather is actually singing about on this absolute firecracker of an album; many of these songs are vicious portraits of the effects of the sex industry on the women involved (and women in general), switching from dead-eyed passivity to threats of furious vengeance and utter disgust, often in the same song. Take the chorus from closing track ‘Dead Zebra’ –
‘Don’t you fucking touch me, don’t you ever fucking touch me/You can touch me when you fuck me, but I’ll never let you love me’
The brutal, shocking language and subject matter are totally in your face, forcing you to confront it, and married to some very memorable and powerful tunes, including the Nirvana-esque ‘Hell 7 (America Mary)’ and the Placebo-meets-death-metal of ‘Fine’, it makes for a riveting, harrowing and unforgettable listen. It makes all the cartoon horrors of the average metal band look very silly indeed.
This isn’t music as escapism, it’s music as furious wake-up call and fight back. This is not a comfortable or easy listen, despite the strength of the tunes, but it is a great album because it manages to say so much without sacrificing the music for the message.