As with any art form mashed into the business/media realm, mediocrity tends to triumph within the music industry while all the unique talent has the propensity to get overlooked. Speaking of this scenario, I’ve been wanting to write about a certain post punk “it thing” band from Leeds for quite a while but the review just wasn’t flowing. This thing has been in the draft stage for almost two months. I even tried to reach out with some questions, but was told the band was “busy touring”. When I looked up their schedule just now on Tuesday, 6/11, they had six gigs booked until the end of the year. Wow. One gig per month constitutes touring? I guess the bands that are gigging almost weekly better refer to their time on the road as SUPER MONSTER TOURS. Six dates until the end of the year does NOT constitute a tour.
Anyway, this particular road dog hard touring band call themselves “Drahla”. I call them pretentious art school flunkies who steel from (not “influenced by” but “steal from” in this instance) from the likes of Delia Derbyshire and The Ramones. Delia’s sound collages waft in all over this band’s “ice in my veins, over the edge” meanderings, only minus all that pesky artistic diligence and pioneering that tends to be such a hassle. In homage to The Ramones, they keep their songs quick and tight and to-the-point, but unlike the Fab Five who wrote with a great sense of humor and a barely masked gnashing of the teeth at a world gone wrong, Drahla settles for merely spewing subterfuge like lyrical barf. This isn’t to say I didn’t kind of like them on the first listen. See, this is how a band of Drahla’s ilk gets to you. They know which algorithms to duly tick off, extending just enough effort to barely stimulate the pleasure centers of, say, someone like YOUR brain, someone who loves old school punk and proto electronica. By nature, then, you should love this band. As a matter of fact, you’re already convinced that you love this band before you’ve even heard them. Because this is the type of band the industry puts $$$ behind, pushing them onto the pay-to-play blogs and playlists, and suddenly Drahla is the next big tha’ng and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Until the next big thing comes along next week, anyway.
But is Drahla really any good? Is there anything you can really sink your teeth into under all that staged pouting? To be fair, there is a vein of death rock majesty deep in the meat, but it’s buried in the mix to the point where Drahla comes off as lifeless. Even the iciest of bible black post punk lords had a human heartbeat in there somewhere, from Joy Division’s aching romantic disembodiment to Throbbing Gristle’s post-industrial dread, but this is about as deep as a jet black wig sitting atop a red telecaster. There’s some interesting sax lines and that ricochet-style guitar flailing, although done to death, is competent to say the least. One cannot fault the musical prowess. But all to what end? Is there anything real or raw going on here or are these just mannequins with picks? Each of the songs clocks in at an economical 2-and-a-half minutes, so there’s something to be said for consistency. “Stimulus for Living” does stand out since there seems to be some sort of actual statement about something going on, although I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly what that is. And the video for “Pyramid Estate” is like a trip to the Egyptian Room at any museum, which is always a lot of fun.
But like any second Tinder date, the true colors, or lack thereof, came out on that next listen and I just had to ghost this band. I started this piece several times but there’s really no correct angle to take since the band themselves are so water-sign ineffectual. To sum it all up, since I admittedly gots nothin’ on this most achingly nothin’ of bands, I’ll leave it all to a quote from the sound engineer for a well-known band I happen to know who recently came across our dear Drahla in a (very rare) live setting. When I suggested there may not be too much actual substance going on with this particular “it” band, he cut me off with a knowing grimace before I could even get into it.
“Fucking tell me about it”.