Eoin Loveless, left, and brother Rory make up the duo Drenge.
Andy Willsher Enlarge
Drenge (Infectious Music)
British rock duo Drenge's self-titled debut is pretty much perfect.
That's not a word critics of any kind should throw around lightly, and it's not done so here.
Young twenty-something brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless distill almost everything that's been great about rock 'n' roll over the last 25 years into 12 diamond-cut songs on their U.S. debut. Most of "Drenge" is a flurry of punches, scraped knuckles, teeth on the floor and the sound of a switchblade clicking open, leaving the listener with a giddy sense of euphoria that was common in rock 'n' roll's pre-malaise days but is truly hard to come by now.
Any guitar-and-drums duo is going to draw comparisons with The Black Keys and Jack White's White Stripes, and the boys do capture the same kind of bravado those acts had in their two-piece days. But they've also ingested Josh Homme's swaggering sneer, Nirvana's elegant anger, Mudhoney's noirish sense of humor, Weezer's melodic compulsion, The Arctic Monkeys' unshakable confidence and Built to Spill's appreciation for epic drama.
The album opens with the down-tuned mood setter "People in Love Make Me Feel Yuck" before careening down a darkened highway with the lights off on the three-song run of "Dogmeat," ''I Want to Break You in Half" and "Bloodsports." The brothers never let up, building the pace with "Gun Crazy," ''I Don't Want to Make Love to You" and "Nothing" before unleashing the sprawling eight-minute "Let's Pretend," a study in post-punk slow build that finishes like Thor's hammer.
Yep, pretty much perfect.
— CHRIS TALBOTT,
The debut album from rising band Kitten will have you purring.
The Los Angeles-based group's self-titled release is full of synth pop anthems, dance jams and punk-rock tracks that mesh together seamlessly.
Chloe Chaidez, 19, leads the band, and her vocals sound fresh and edgy. The album kicks off with the dreamy and upbeat "Like a Stranger," while the addictive tracks "Sex Drive" and "Sensible" keep the mood going. Chaidez even impresses on the slow and simplistic tune "Apples and Cigarettes," which nicely closes the 12-track set.
"Kitten" is one of the year's brightest debuts, and Chaidez's charisma on the album translates onstage during the band's live show. The group has opened on the road for No Doubt and Paramore, and Chaidez has an energy that captivates and stands out, much like Gwen Stefani and Hayley Williams.
— MESFIN FEKADU,
Chicago has been much in evidence lately. They collaborated with Robin Thicke on January’s Grammy telecast. They appeared in Larry David’s outrageous HBO flick Clear History (in which every girlfriend of David’s character had relations with several band members). At the very least, the brassy R&B/jazz outfit has finally outrun the ghost of the ’80s power-ballad sound foisted on it by the legendarily lame Peter Cetera.
On “Now: XXXVI,” cofounders Robert Lamm, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane and some newer Chicagoans sound closer to their rough roots than they have since their first albums.
The CD’s arrangements might not be quite as raunchy or contagious as “25 or 6 to 4,” but cuts like “Free at Last” come close in punch and gruffness, with a nod to Chicago’s psychedelic start on “Another Trippy Day.”
While maintaining its robust brass sound (those trombones!), Chicago hasn’t forgotten the luster of its harmony vocals (“This is the Time” could be disco-era Bee Gees) or the rich romanticism of a good slow song.
The first 10 Chicago albums set the gold standard for blue-eyed, big-band rock-and-soul.
“Now” sounds like Chicago wants that feeling back.