With their 2014 self-titled debut LP, New York's Drowners proved that they really were children of the Big Apple. Entrenched in the jangle and fuzz we've come to expect from NYC garage pop, it was a record that embodied the effortless cool and sexual ambiguity synonymous with the city. For all its plus points, however, it was a record that also oozed familiarity, casting aspersions as to whether such well-trodden aesthetics would hold up on their inevitable second LP.
The answer, in short, is sort of. Coming almost two and half years after their eponymous LP, ‘On Desire’ features much of the same aesthetics as its predecessor, only much less of its charm. Where ‘Drowners’ harboured a youthful energy and urgency that went hand in hand with the band's indie oikishness, ‘On Desire’ slows things down, becoming comfortable and occasionally complacent in the process.
Proceedings start impressively enough. Both opener 'Troublemaker' and lead single 'Cruel Ways' offer the bite and immediacy of their debut while being removed and matured enough to offer plenty of hope for what's to follow.
Unfortunately, 'Humans Remains' puts an abrupt halt to the record's pace, and though not a bad song on its own, it feels out of sorts so early on and would benefit from a later inclusion. 'Dreams Don't Count' exacerbates the problem. A loping indie ballad that stymies the pace even further, it's something that ‘On Desire’ struggles to recover from, despite its best intentions.
It feels wrong to criticise Drowners for forgoing the clattering indie of their debut in favour of more matured new wave that certain tracks here seem to gravitate towards; 'Another Go', 'Pick Up the Pace' and 'Don't Be Like That’, for instance, all offer an insight into the direction that the band were clearly heading, and are obvious highlights. It's a shame then, so much of ‘On Desire’ feels caught between the effortless cool of their youthful debut, and almost parody of the indie scene they clearly respect.
Rather than dismiss them for failing to completely outgrow the constraints a successful debut forces on a band however, give Drowners the benefit of the doubt. There's parts of ‘On Desire’ that feel all too familiar, and there's parts that simply don't work. For every negative though there's a melody or lyric that makes it shine, and for that, the band are worth sticking with, at least for the time being.
Words: Dave Beech
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