Quintessential Americana from the Minnesota brothers...

Minnesota-based brothers Remo Drive have waited three years to grace us with their third album and in the end, all it took was a $250 Tascam recording desk from Facebook Marketplace. Going into lockdown before it was compulsory, they took a well-needed break from the constant touring to take advantage of their parents’ fridge stock and home comforts. 'A Portrait Of An Ugly Man' shows what you can create in isolation. The album explores mental health, internal reflection and a want to do better, it tracks a growth in the pair as they traverse the limitations of human nature.

‘Star Worship’, the first single off the album, plays on the human race’s innate desire to worship a higher power, with them instead finding comfort in loving “any man who wears a guitar on his neck”. Music is a religious experience after all, offering solace to those who seek it and comfort to those without. The duo pay their dues to the stars that came before them in their music video, with Elvis’ hips flowing into vogueing, they pay homage to their Gods with a video they recorded in their parents garage.

Their sound itself is an ode to their forebearers, with the western Americana influence weaving its way through tracks like ‘If I’ve Ever Looked Too Deep In Thought’ and ‘A Flower And A Weed’, arguably two of the best songs off the album. From the opening of the former to the desperate plea for help in the latter, they grapple with what it is to be struggling. “To any hand within my reach, won’t you pick me from among the weeds” is a universal desperation; the grass is always greener and sometimes you need a helping hand.

Not all tracks are as wholesome in motive, with the sporadic humour of ‘The Ugly Man Sings’, the ingenious central track, definitely changing the tune. The disjoint between verses and chorus and the ridiculous threat to force a child back into their mother’s womb is farcically hilarious. Expect this to be a new cult favourite that never sees airtime, as most of the best tracks are.

And whilst the album is overflowing with strong tracks, not all are up to par, with ‘The Night I Kidnapped Remo Drive’ slipping below the bar. It feels less inspired than the songs that surround it, understandable with the theme and motive of the track but the execution lacks finesse. And whilst the rest of the album pushes the bands music forward, the track holds them back in the noughties, with the emo-pop “come on you’re killing me” being a smack of nostalgia. But said nostalgia should remain with songs of the time, and not tracks released over a decade after.

Despite this downfall, the album is another hit for Erik and Stephen. It’s confident in its sound and sees the brothers stepping away from the hold of the past and into a sound that is quintessential Remo Drive.

7/10

Words: Megan Walder

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