Bodega, Wellington, October 5
Reviewed by Simon Sweetman
You don't know you're living in a golden age until it's happened. Someone points it out later. Gareth Liddiard, lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, leader of The Drones, is ushering in a golden age of songwriting. His compositions play out like short films. They feel more like literature than music – sitting alongside the work of, say, Tim Winton, as part of an Australian tradition. Think even of John Hillcoat's films, that very visceral reaction that comes from slow-building white-knuckle rides. That sense of horror, brute ugliness told-so poetically.
There's a knife-edge tension to The Drones as a live act. Lacerations of guitar punctuating – and puncturing – the music.
Liddiard song-spitting and snarling with an almost evangelical dedication, as if each song possesses him, and if the whip-crack of the band is a little at times like The Bad Seeds that's a fair enough observation, though it's The Saints, The Birthday Party – even The Hoodoo Gurus and early Hunters and Collectors – that come to mind in terms of live energy. This bones-picked-clean outback nightmare of punk and pub rock vestiges is reshaped to offer surging doomsday reveries.
The opening brace from this year's I See Seaweed set the tone, from there it was back to the earlier work, forward again to the new album, the songs with feverish stop-starts to create a what-will-he-say-next moment. The songs falling, tumbling, hurtling from the stage.
When this band hit the mark it was as good as any I'd ever seen. And better than most. Gobsmacked, slightly shell-shocked, the wind knocked clean out – that of course could apply to how members of the audience felt or to how the songs were treated. It was a stunner.
Street Chant started the night off, working hard to partially impress a thin crowd. They had a couple of good songs. The rest was just noise, sometimes close to beautiful, sometimes only OK. But please, someone – anyone! – buy them a beer
- © Fairfax NZ News