drinks

DRINKS is the work of two cult heroes, both of whom have just released their most successful, poppiest records to date. The pairing of Cate Le Bon with White Fence’s Tim Presley actually makes sense on paper; Presley has long been the connoisseur’s West Coast psychedelicist of choice, and the Carmarthenshire-born, California-based Le Bon’s last LP, 2013’s wonderful ‘Mug Museum’ featured White Fence’s Nick Murray on drums. A melting of warped minds, their debut album isn’t going to be a career maker, nor is it exactly career suicide. Much like ‘Hair’, Presley’s 2012 collaboration with Ty Segall, ‘Hermits on Holiday’ is the sound of two musicians at the top of their game doing whatever the hell they want, just to amuse themselves. If anyone else likes it… ah, you know the drill.

Spanning nine foggy, acid-dipped trips through two playful minds, the writing on ‘Hermits’ is endearingly sketchy. Opener ‘Laying Down the Rock’ peppers its campfire strum with a nagging, neverending three-note riff, its retro tendencies tempered only by a fleeting mention of “MapQuest.” The title track foregrounds Le Bon, as she demurs itinerary-like lyrics (“Six past the eight: copulate”) in her best little girl lost voice. Interminably chiming guitars wend their way up and down the fretboard, before a skittering Jaki Liebezeit beat rolls the song to a halt.

There are forays into krautrock, pastoral psychedelia and trashy garage rawk, but never quite as you’d expect them. Half the time, the musicians have an almost Beefheartian disregard for what anyone else is playing; the rest of the time, it could almost pass for a second, slightly-more-competent Shaggs record. When Presley yelps “Rock and roll!” on ‘She Walks So Fast’, possibly anticipating a bitchin’ solo, the song stumbles to a temporary halt. Meanwhile, the cut-and-paste-punk ‘Focus on the Street’ (“I’m older than your mother and I’m racing horses!”) pitches itself somewhere between Presley’s former paymasters The Fall, and McLusky on ludes.

The more composed parts of the record are swiftly forgotten by the time the album’s centrepiece rolls around. Arguably DRINKS’s strangest moment, ‘Tim, Do I Like That Dog’ barely counts as a song, but does manage to double up as a psychotic children’s game show theme, as composed by Joe Meek. For six and a half minutes, a decidedly unhinged guitar noodles away over rumbling drums, and faltering bass drifting in and out of the mix. “Tim?” Le Bon asks, before pausing. “Do I like that dog?” Somewhere in the distance, Presley offers the occasional answer – sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes unsure. Not since Syd Barrett’s ‘Vegetable Man’ has unbridled whimsy ever sounded as demented.

DRINKS aren’t a band who care to be easily understood, and ‘Hermits on Holiday’ demands that you meet it on its own level, whatever that may be. “What’s going on?” someone mutters two tracks into the record. He never gets an answer, and as the closing incantation ‘Time Between’ drones its way to a close seven songs later, neither do we. The album may have been written and recorded in Los Angeles, but there’s no grid to follow; any trace of sunlight seems to be beaming in through decidedly filthy windows.

Confusion is rife on ‘Hermits on Holiday’, but it’s strangely intoxicating. Whatever Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley are drinking, it’s spiked with something.

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