The Drowns – Blacked Out (Pirates Press Records, 2024)

If you aren’t aware of The Drowns by this point, you’ve probably spent the last few years trapped in a caved-in basement, or are some kind of hermit living in total isolation from any form of society. I’ll fill in the blanks for you, though, just in case. The Drowns are a 4-piece based out of Seattle. Blacked Out is their third full length. It follows their debut, View From The Bottom, which came out back in August 2018, a second full length, Under Tension and a 12in, Lunatics, both of which came out through Pirates Press Records in 2020 and 2022 respectively. Add to this a raft of 7ins and splits with bands such as The Last Gang and Wonk Unit, and there’s the impressive body of work they’ve produced. Not bad going.

Photo cred: Rat City Booking

Their career thus far has seen their sound transition from gritty street punk n’ roll to more of a glam tinged pub rock take on the sound. It’s been quite the journey, and I’ve been lucky enough to be loosely in touch with the boys over the years, and managed to catch them live a couple of times when they’ve been to these shores. One thing is for sure, The Drowns work hard, spending a lot of time in the studio, the practice space, and putting in the hard yards on the road; and it shows, both in cohesion of the songwriting and the balls-out good-time stage presence.

The upbeat sound on these songs is often underscored by serious lyrical content. Ketamine & Cola for example seems to be a look back on Rev’s previous antics with booze and drugs, taken from a stance of being 5 years sober. It’s a song that I think can be appreciated by people regardless of the side of that proverbial coin they find themselves favouring; there’s no preaching here, but probably a valuable lesson in putting the brakes on at least from time to time.

Just the Way She Goes, with Andy taking lead vocal seems to recall the pop hooks of Kim Wilde’s Kids in America to soundtrack a Springsteenian tale of a working class lady seeming hellbent on self-destruction. The couplet closing out the A side, title track, Blacked Out and Yob on a Rampage set the stage for a more refined take on The Drowns’ meat and spuds joyfully stomping yell-alongs. I can’t wait to hear these ones live.

Side B opens with 1979 Trans Am, which feels about as close to the New York Dolls busting out a Kings of Nuthin’ jam as I’ve ever heard, and it’s kinda glorious even though it probably sits a bit outside my typical personal wheelhouse. I mean, they cover Mud’s Dynamite on this record and I didn’t even bat an eyelid. I suppose a lesson for all of us about relaxing a bit on musical prejudices, am I right?

Photo cred: Robert Taylor

I’m gonna mention The Boss again (sorry not sorry). As working class guys, there’s obviously going to be an unspoken influence from the King of Americana. In particular I’m put in mind of The Bouncing Souls album, The Gold Record, on which they’d managed to marry blue collar rock anthems to a “mature” punk rock sound in a believable way. Examples here include Chancer and Don’t Have A Job (call and response gang vocals in a live setting on the horizon??). The album closer, Born to Die in NYC is possibly my favorite cut here. Piano and vocal led arrangements are a hop skip and a jump from the sound on the rest of the album. I feel like this one could comfortably sit in a quiet moment on Born to Run.

In all honesty, “ra ra ra, I prefer their earlier stuff, blah-de-blah”. However, The Drowns have managed to keep a clean streak in terms of not putting a foot wrong, in my humblest of opinions. If you’ve got the chops to consistently bash out total belters like these, who am I to gainsay it?

Tony of Nurgle rating: 9/10

You can pick this up on classic black, neon yellow, or ultra-clear with neon yellow and black splatter colourways of vinyl, or on the humble CD from Pirates Press Records. Normally I’m a bit of a tart when it comes to these things and go for a colour version, but I think the black version fits perfectly from a thematic and visual point of view, innit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.