A disorienting, deranged but oddly compelling mystery inhabits this debut album by Drab City. From the opening moments of ‘Entering Drab City’, all is uncertain, its lead guitar notes warped and woozy, as if slowly coming into focus, in the sort of off-centre scene-setter you might expect from the mind of David Lynch. From there we embark on a half-hour trip through uncertain, unsighted and somewhat intimidating terrain.
To maintain as distinctive an aura as this album manages requires a diverse tapestry of musical ingredients and Drab City deliver in that regard, where funk bass and jittering synths in one moment can be supplanted by syncopated drums and vibraphone the next. The lead singer’s vocals – whoever she may be – are typically in the dream pop tradition of Trish Keenan or Laetitia Sadier, but with a particularly affected disaffection that just further confuses the picture. If she’s our leader through this paranoid new place, shouldn’t she be more protective of us?
Subject matter, you may not be surprised to learn, is often tricky to decipher, although ‘Working for the Men’ appears to be an embittered, quiet revolution against the patriarchy. But for Drab City, aesthetic is king. ‘Standing Where You Left Me’ opens with what sounds like the beeps of a heart monitor, whilst standout track ‘Troubled Girl’ begins with a spoken, echoey narration that cannot help but call to mind The Shangri-Las. But even that track is dragged through the darkness by its follicles, the finished article haunted by a Portishead-tinged energy.
‘Just Me and You’ tells a joyously dark romance, like if Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood had been bitten by vampires and forced to live in each other’s company for the last thousand years, whilst ‘Devil Doll’ is the other track that threatens to let a truly hummable tune emerge from their crepuscular, misty haze. Listening to Good Songs for Bad People, you do believe you have visited a new city, but it is anything but drab.
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