The Drawers – Counter-Sound

The Drawers
Counter-Sound

As a music reviewer, you are either assigned your artist or they request you personally. In the latter situation, your words carry more weight, and thus you are hesitant to give an honest critique. With The Drawers’ album Counter-Sound, vocalist/guitarist Chris Duckett and I spoke about doing a review. He proclaimed his act as truly original and worthy of attention. Obviously, I was eager to listen. Unfortunately, The Drawers are not a band that breaks from the norm to introduce the novel. With all due respect for the feelings and ego of Chris and Co., The Drawers are not very appealing, original or even listenable.

Besides Duckett, The Drawers consists of Bradley Everett on drums and Jeremy Luring on bass. They include several recognizable outfits as their influences, including the two that came to my mind: Radiohead and the Pixies. I’ll add Sonic Youth to the list (and I’m sure the band would agree). Among the others are Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and The Flaming Lips. Alas, the depth and sophistication of that trio isn’t present here.

In our communication, Duckett prefaced his description of the project with “…so little gets to you that offers itself to interesting critical analysis.” He went on to state that this album will break that trend. But, as much as I wanted it to (and I did), it doesn’t. This is not a band “…whose extreme coolness is based solely on their unique songs.”

The very first seconds of “Someone’s Coming” screams 1987. It has a simple guitar line with minimalist drumming. Likewise, the vocals scream the style of Frank Black. The most interesting segment is the chorus, which at least has some melody. “Old Man,” to its credit, does have a hauntingly simple melody, but unfortunately the distorted vocals make the track seem like a joke. “Spacepop” is pure early Radiohead and Talking Heads, except that it’s, well, not Radiohead and Talking Heads (if you know what I mean). This segues into “Staircase,” a noisy, almost laughable little jam. “Opiumden”, I kid you not, almost plagiarizes the Pixie’s “This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven” (a nostalgic gem from my early childhood). “Ishouldwonder” is so sparse and effortless that it makes me cringe. “Sonar” is an instrumental that, by process of elimination, is the most intriguing track. “Earthtomeskytoyou” has some interesting changes with its casio keyboard, but the rest drags along slowly until the Smashing Pumpkins-esque chorus. “Trance-in-D” is, I suppose, the Pink Floyd influence, but it’s really just a bunch of weird noises surrounding a continuous emission of the lower C note. Finally, “Better Flow”…doesn’t sound too different from what preceded it.

If you couldn’t tell, it was a struggle to even discuss these songs individually (if you call a one sentence description a commentary). That’s because the production is so bad, and perhaps the ideas so rudimentary, that it comes off as a sad excuse for amateur hour. The instruments have no color, no vibrancy. The vocals (on the tracks where they are distinguishable) sound like Sesame Street meets a pathetic lounge singer. I realize that The Drawers are largely influenced by acts that were based on simple three chord pop and rock, but c’mon. Even at their start, The Pixes and Radiohead were much fuller and professional than this (and we all know how much Radiohead in particular evolved after Pablo Honey). This is what makes Counter-Sound nearly unlistenable.

Again, I’m not writing this review with the contempt and insult other reviews received (and I don’t expect the same vile email responses), but the truth must be stated. The Drawers seem like a very personable and ambitious group, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good. They, like many artists, wear their influences on their sleeves, but, unlike better bands, they don’t filter it through their own uniqueness. Counter-Sound is a collection of very basic, poorly produced and poorly written tracks. You’d be better off listening to the original artists.