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REVIEW | THE DRONES – ‘FEELIN KINDA FREE’ (LP)

It makes sense that The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard would rather find his soul mate in a dead body on the shores of 1948 Somerton beach than anything else that exists in the pantheon of Australia’s bloodied and bleached history. A forgotten man left to die alone in his sleep, no one mourning or particularly perturbed by his meaningless existence, other than that it proved irritating to just quite pin down how and where he fit into history – turns out mystery is identity enough for a society destined to live on a diet of AFL scandals and a perpetually disappointing political system. The Drones see the end coming from a mile off – making arrangements for their own oblivion is basically the first thing they do on Feelin’ Kinda Free.

‘Private Execution’ introduces proceedings with a digitized cacophony mess while synthesizers tear straight to your heart. Nothing is especially subtle here – “I’m either taking up more space than I have taken up before or the days are getting shorter”; seems even an old school political ranter like Liddiard runs out of cautious optimism at some point. The instrumentation of ‘Public Execution’ and the larger part in general of Feelin’ Kinda Free ends up finding a weird transpacific pessimistic touchstone in Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06, but it’s the bullshit calling riot of Run the Jewels’ second album that also has a lot in common with Liddiard’s lyricism here. Where Killer Mike and El-P were sneering at American’s ability to look away while the percentage of African Americans making up prison populations rose to 60 percent, Liddiard takes aim at Australia’s comfortable xenophobia and the coddling of outdated values that permeate throughout this great southern land.

Perhaps that makes The Drones sound like a rap outfit, but Liddiard’s raspy sneer crackles all the way through Feelin’ Kinda Free. ‘Taman Shud’ feels like Liddiard breaking a dam of objection, long turned bitter, on the behalf of thousands – just try not to appreciate “you came here in a boat you fucking cunt” – and it’ll easily convince you it’s the best song on the album. The simple but effective wordplay of “thud, thud, my taman shud” is all the song really needs for a chorus, but it’s verses are loaded with stabs and snipes that you can practically see Liddiard’s brain running out of space for the amount of things he needs to give a long deserved “fuck you” to. ‘Then They Came for Me’ predicts the kind of disappearing act a lot of dissidents seemingly pull when dissent becomes problematic for governments, and ‘To Think That I Once Loved You’ strips back the wailing keyboards and shuddering bass for what is possibly the closest thing The Drones will ever come to the concept of ‘less is more’ – their impression of the last love song ever sung? Given the context, it’s not an unfair assumption. ‘Boredom’ sees The Drones pushing further down the path of electronic art punk that Feelin’ Kinda Free seems to be forging – the drums get industrialised while voices warp and fade over the hook, with everything tied up by Liddiard’s spitting vocals.

What was that I said about this not being a hip hop record? Feelin’ Kinda Free is another ambitious step in irreverence and frankly a breath of fresh fucking air as far as Australian “rock” music goes, unafraid to make enemies of anything with a pulse and a bank account all in pursuit of anything but another easily digested protest song.

By Nicholas Kennedy

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