'New Rock Country Wave' is a label you don’t hear often, if ever, for a musical genre. As I finger through new releases of the month, it crosses my mind that I don’t think anyone has attempted to brand that kind of music or define that category. It would have to consist of influences ranging from Johnny Cash to Echo & The Bunnymen. Americana and New Wave are relatively distant styles and few have mixed the two together. Bands like R.E.M. or The Replacements have taken a stab at it. I love those bands, but I wish more would try to fuse the ingredients that make up those sounds today.
“Live without Warning” is a truly inspired collection of influences from David Bowie’s slinky lounge music of the 1970’s to honest storytelling, beer fueled acoustic songs about life. “Pedestrian Love Song” is a perfect acoustic ballad, a love song about a couple living through the mundane parts of relationship and marriage. “End of the Line” is another stand out acoustic track where MacLauchlan ponders the ironies of everyday characters with a classic Bob Dylan tone to his delivery. But the vibe of the majority of the album centers around a new wave existential backdrop you can clearly connect to on songs like “Now” and “Evolution”. MacLauchlan tends to gravitate toward his apocalyptic science fiction world while the band is flawless, hitting every nuance with style.
If you’re a wide ranged record collector, a Talking Heads fan, or interested in a flourishing new indie rock group, this is the band for you.
Santa Fe, New Mexico – With their recent release, Life Without Warning, the southwestern quintet Drastic Andrew presents familiar sounds with a new presentation. Brief glances at this album will give you a full scope of what this band is all about, life in an unadulterated and unfiltered scope. Through the eye of the every man, Live Without Warning provide a varied smorgasbord of musical influences, ranging from Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams to later releases by The Beatles and Neil Young.
Songs like “Now”, “Alien Creature”, and “Evolution” exhibit classic rock sensibilities in their truest form. Each individual part strengthens the theme of the song and builds on a theme. The opener recalls the sinewy grooves of 80’s pop[rock with dueling synthesizer lines to put the finishing touches on the picture. Drastic Andrew, in the case of songs like “Alien Creature”, show a real skill for spinning familiar themes through unusual approaches while nevertheless offering listeners an unique experience each time out. Softer tracks like the title cut and “Every Minute of the Day” find Drastic Andrew restraining the guitars-first approach heard on the more rock-oriented tracks in favor of affecting, melodic affairs.
Bands like Drastic Andrew will restore your faith in rock. The cling-clang of doom has rang out across the land and rock music is considered now, if anything, the dying fare peddled by aging bands to graying audiences. Thankfully, Drastic Andrew doesn’t buy into the fatalism. Instead, this New Mexico based outfit crafts consistently catchy and energetic material never lacking in intelligence or originality. They have tangible influences running through much of their songwriting, but these touches inform rather than guide the band. The band’s latest release, Live Without Warning, is a twelve song collection brimming with creativity and imagination.
The first rate production is evident on the opener. The band obviously understood that they had an ideal opener for this set with “Now” and its disjointed guitar lines and pop rock gloss makes for an exhilarating start. The pure rock songs on Live Without Warning share some common strengths. The arrangements orchestrate the band’s two-guitar attack in a seamless way while singer/rhythm guitarist Andrew MacLauchlan stretches his surprisingly versatile voice in unexpected, but wonderfully rock and roll, ways. “Evolution” has a slow tempo and bubbles with barely restrained fury while “Walking with Me” wails with convincing bluesy authority. “Send Him Back” and “1812” are songs near the end of the album; the former is an incendiary blast of chopped-down rockabilly while the latter shows a band unafraid to show their chops with multiple tempo shifts and varying musical textures driving the band’s historically themed lyric.
The album’s ballads or slower material is just as exceptional. Early tracks like “Every Minute of the Day” and the album’s title track show a band confident enough in their talents that exploring the decidedly poppier side of their sound comes out completely natural. There’s no sense of affectation or pandering for radio play. Other tracks later in the album show off the band’s songwriting and have a slightly ambitious flavor. “Pedestrian Love Song” marries a nuanced lyric with tasteful and layered musical accompaniment. The track also shows Drastic Andrew pursuing a more narrative-minded direction than heard in the surrounding material. “Humble” serves as an excellent case study of how to write songs about human virtues without ever sounding preachy or humorless. The band’s songwriting grounds this in a character study and ultimately invites listeners to form their own conclusion while nevertheless promoting their own. The album’s final song, “End of the Line”, has a simplified beauty lacking on many of the album’s tracks and, as endings go, might remind some of a leaf wafting gently to the ground. Drastic Andrew brings things full circle with its direct, if not slightly poetic, lyric and the tasteful understatement of the playing.
Live Without Warning is a stunning success on nearly every level and shows this band reaching an early peak in their recording and songwriting careers. There is a clear vision working behind each and every one of these tracks – Drastic Andrew never sound unsure or tentative and it’s a joy riding through their particular version of 21st century rock music.
9 out of 10 stars.
The title alone might throw you. I saw Live Without Warning and, without any previous knowledge of Drastic Andrew, feared that they might be some pie-in-the-sky collection of optimists peddling affirmative pop rock anthems no deeper than a bird bath. However, once you start listening to Drastic Andrew’s third full length album, it becomes quickly clear that we’re in the hands of capable stylists who may trod familiar thematic ground, but have nonetheless discovered new ways of expressing timeless truths. This New Mexico based five piece isn’t a bar band throwing together a few originals so they can promote an album at their live gigs. It’s apparent that Drastic Andrew is serious musicians and performers, but their songwriting is the obvious product of tremendous talents and dedication.
“Now” bristles with pared-back guitar muscle and vocalist Andrew MacLauchlan’s slightly off-kilter vocal creates an interesting percussive counterpoint. The pop-influenced “Every Minute of the Day” and the album’s title track serves notice that Drastic Andrew are capable balladeers who resist any temptation for sliding into pure schlock and are quite at ease with deeply felt and carefully crafted slower pieces that stress their intimate side. MacLauchlan’s clear baritone is the guiding force on nearly all of the tracks, but drummer Michael Chavez and bassist Noah Baumeister form an impressive rhythm section that offers the band a remarkably solid foundation. The album boasts some impressive rockers like “Alien Creature” and “Walking with Me” that affords them ample stage to shine. The former is an impressively composed meditation on the classic loner figure filtered through a sci-fi prism while the latter unleashes a memorable blast of Chicago inspired electric blues. “Evolution” follows a more strictly indie rock vibe than other tracks, but its laced with the same country and pop influences touching every song on the record.
“Pedestrian Love Song” and “Humble” find Drastic Andrew exploring a wider lyrical canvas than on other cuts and succeed. The deliberate tempo and lush musicality of the former elicits a yearning, even tender vocal from MacLauchlan while the latter is a bouncy, stripped down character study reaching, in its deceptively modest way, for some universal truths. “1812” has some unlikely vocal harmonies, tricky time shifts, and a bit of American history to boot, but the infectious pop groove gives the musicians a chance to stretch out and shine individually. “Plunder Away” is a bug-eyed slab of R&B influenced rock and roll that Drastic Andrew carries off with breathless confidence. The drumming never relents and the inclusion of brass sounds adds a new sonic dimension to otherwise simplified backing.
You’ll hear few albums better than this in 2015. Drastic Andrew’s new set embodies the best about rock and roll past, present, and future. Their subtle genre-hopping never sounds unnatural or affected – this is a band with many irons in many fires and they each burn with equal heat. Live Without Warning is superb from beginning to end and one finishes listening to it certain that the best is still to come.
New Mexico five-piece Drastic Andrew’s new album Live Without Warning is a wonderfully apt title for the collection. While there is an arch traditionalist quality informing each song, Drastic Andrew’s high gloss production invests the collection with a contemporary sound that nevertheless remains faithful to their essentially purist vision. The band’s particular brand of Americana music certainly makes use of pop song craft to aid widening the material’s appeal, but their astute songwriting wrings a variety of interesting twists from those tropes. The twelve song collection, clocking in at a little less than fifty minutes in lengths, reminds any music devotee that bands often excel when they’re doing more with less. The clean, economical slant of Drastic Andrew’s music offers listeners a great deal.
“Now” has a strong, guitar-fueled pop edge and effective vocal harmonies. It’s impressive to hear an opener so comfortable with straddling a line between pop and rock, but moreover, capable of giving it such a compelling spin. Lead singer and primary songwriter Andrew MacLauchlan doesn’t have a songbird’s voice, but deceptively strong emotive qualities. The title track has softer textures than its opener, but the acoustic instrumentation doesn’t mean this is lighter fare. The quasi-ballad direction suits the band well and they demonstrate great command over dynamics and gradually orchestrating the song’s various musical elements into a cohesive whole. “Alien Creature” introduces listeners to the band’s quirkier songwriter tendencies, but the odd subject matter and idiosyncratic delivery never sounds gratuitous. The light R&B influences and dance club beat might seem like an odd match for the song’s humor, but it helps accentuate the band’s primary aims with this track – to get people smiling and moving.
“Pedestrian Love Song” is another acoustic based track that opens with MacLauchlan’s voice and guitar before the band soon enters. The song’s lazy mid-tempo stroll is ideal for its slightly mournful vocal and melody. The brisker tempo of “Humble” carries a decidedly country influence, but it merely colors the piece instead of defining it. Drastic Andrew aren’t content exploring that particular direction however and the bridge includes memorable harmonies. The stuttering rock guitar of “Walking with Me” is augmented with light brass, but the drumming creates an impressive groove that stands as one of the album’s instrumental highlights. “Send Him Back” revisits the band’s rockabilly/country influences and shows off their ability to strip tracks down to their essentials and refrain from indulgences. “1812” opens as a slow march before the band expertly shifts tempo into a near shuffle. Such tricky tempo changes are an important part of “1812” and the song represents their first real chance to flex progressive muscle. The album’s penultimate tune, “Plunder Away”, is a raucous shuffle that charges out of the gate and never relents. Live Without Warning closes with “End of the Line”, a wonderfully eloquent and gently invoked salutatory send-off with MacLauchlan’s best vocal.
Live Without Warning has impressive diversity and musical balance. There are really no holes in Drastic Andrew’s songwriting – it’s hard to escape the sense that this is a band who addresses everything they do well on an album and resists needless experimentation. They are concerned, after all is said and done, with presenting sturdy and memorable music with the potential to entertain and move listeners. They have met that standard and more.\\
9 out of 10 stars.
Everyone needs to distinguish themselves from the pack somehow. When and if you read about Drastic Andrew dubbing their musical style as “New Rock Country Wave”, try to not pay attention. They mean well. They want you to understand. However, there’s no reason to clutter up what they do with labels that just confuse people. Above all else, Drastic Andrew is a rock band. However, rock music for them is a flexible medium, one subject to influences from multiple forms, and not a static collection of riff-centric tropes with a savage lead vocal. Instead, Drastic Andrew are interested in musical synthesis, finding the common ground between disparate forms and exploiting it for their songwriting. It’s resulted in three albums, thus far, of uniformly impressive quality. Their third and latest full length album, Live Without Warning, solidifies Drastic Andrew’s reputation as one of New Mexico’s finest musical exports. Their fusion of indie rock, country, pop harmonies, and even blues never sounds forced.
Their rock chops are apparent on a number of cuts. The opener, “Now”, mixes their rock sensibilities with a healthy wash of keyboards and understated vocal harmonies. “Alien Creature” is much more of a straight-ahead guitar workout but both of these tracks are distinguished by vocalist Andrew MacLauchlan’s oddly musical delivery. His phrasing is impressive and his voice capable of genuinely emotive moments. “Evolution” plods along at a steady tempo while the band’s two guitarists, MacLauchlan and lead guitarist Ben Wright, thrash out mammoth chords that sound like gathering thunder clouds. “Send Him Back” and “Walking With Me” dive deeper into the heart of pure Americana music. The first song is an enjoyable, souped up rockabilly number while the second shows the band’s perhaps unexpected affinity for playing blues music.
The band’s quieter turns, like on the title track and “Pedestrian Love Song”, are more often defined by their melodic content and their relatively mainstream approach. The former is an unsurprisingly affirmative song with a delicate, almost crystalline, vocal while the second is a slow moving, but colorfully melodic piece of work. “Humble” is another fine track coming later in the album and has a surprising amount of humor for what is often treated with gravest concern. The album’s final two rockers, “1812” and “Plunder Away”, seem like natural neighbors in the running order, but the former stands apart from the latter thanks to the sheer level of musicianship required to pull of those tempo shifts. The second track is a rollicking, certainly thrilling time, but contains none of the sophistication or durability of the earlier tune. The album’s closer, “End of the Line”, is a wistfully elegiac song with a number of surprising lyrical turns and a final, definitive performer from vocalist MacLauchlan.
It’s a miracle these guys have stayed off the major radar for so long. Everything is here. The willingness and talent to shape the music in a more commercially viable direction while still maintaining the courage to face whatever reproach might be coming and keeping a tight grip on your integrity. Nothing here feels or plays like a compromise. Drastic Andrew’s Live Without Warning is a must have for any serious modern rock fan.
9 out of 10 stars.