Drag City, 2018
Review by Kent Manthie
After recording an eponymous album in 2015, Tim Presley and Cate LeBon, the duo who make up Drinks, have just finished Hippo Lite, an album of fascinating music. Recorded in the French town of St. Hippolyte-du-Fort, a small fort-town in the south of France, Hippo Lite has a certain charm that, no doubt, comes from their having set up shop in this conveniently out-of-the-way place; away from the craziness and the hustle-and-bustle of a place like, say, NYC or Chicago or somewhere in L.A. County, the Bay Area, etc.
One of the first things they put out there was the track “Real Outside”, a kind of preview of the interestingly vivid things to come (when the album hits the streets, April 20th).
Beyond “Real Outside”, which is pretty good in itself, I hear echoes of some great stuff from times past, both recently and further back. A good example is the penultimate track, “Pink or Die”, which, from the crazy, syncopated, “no-wave” sound (a la the guitar wanking, etc.) immediately reminded me of the unforgettable and incomparable James Chance & The Contortionists (see/hear Buy, one of the coolest, most underrated albums of the early 80s; I say “underrated” in a positive vein, as, if it had gotten a wide audience, it, no doubt, would’ve been, sound, style and all, co-opted by the same corporate pimps who did the same to what, 30 years ago, could’ve, with a straight face, called “alternative”, but which, after Nirvana and Pearl Jam started getting heavy rotation on the radio, became something of a bad joke (this is “alternative”? Stuff that the likes of Warners, Sony, BMG, etc are shoving in my face at every turn? Soon after, e.g., the mid-90s and on, you started to hear, on radio stations that played that sort of format, rebranding it as “modern rock”.
Anyway, back to Drinks. As much as “Pink or Die” sounded (to me, anyway), in terms of the sound, rhythm, feel, etc, not so much the vocals, as Cate did sang lead on this track, like James Chance, the final cut, “You Could Be Better”, from the opening with the violin, etc., reminded me, a little, of Fred Frith and/or Frith’s old band, Henry Cow.
Furthermore, I can’t say enough about how this new album is, unlike so many commerical/corporate rock stuff one hears on FM radio five-ten times a day or sees promo posters and various merchandise, etc. as means of promos for the mediocre “I don’t care” fluff which is too much of what abounds today and is the reason you hear people now and then say stuff like “Bah! There’s just no good music around anymore; not like the great stuff that was around when I was growing up” (coming from the mouth of someone in their 50s or older, though it’s true, not all people that age are oblivious to the wonders of the indie music world!!!
Definitely go get a copy of this and listen to it as often as you can! For easy access, check out the Drag City website and either just pick this up or browse through their many other great products. In a way I hope they don’t get any airplay, at least not on commercial radio (though being played on a good college-based station like KUSF would be pretty nice) so that wave of indie greatness sticks to them and so they don’t get swallowed up or co-opted by some corporate bastards!