Front cover of ‘Hermits On Holiday’
by Ed Biggs
Tim Presley has been one of the busiest names in indie over the last decade or so. A member of cartoon punks The Nerve Agents and then his own project Darker My Love, he’s also been a short-term member of The Fall (on Reformation! Post-TLC) and released six albums in five years under the name White Fence. Drinks is a collaborative effort with curious Welsh siren Cate Le Bon, who’s made three solo albums and has worked with the likes of the Manics, Boom Bip and Willis Earl Beal. Unsurprisingly, given their construction, there’s a distinctly transatlantic feel to their first album Hermits On Holiday, but it’s come as the result of genuine, no-holds-barred experimentation rather than any kind of studied or pre-planned division of labour.
The extremely minimalist approach to college rock sounds like Young Marble Giants taking on early Sonic Youth, with often only a moody electric guitar strum and quiet, primitive percussion that reminds us of Girlpool, and their excellent debut from earlier in 2015. Opener ‘Laying Down Rock’ illustrates their oeuvre perfectly, with an atmosphere like a mid-afternoon drunken haze as Le Bon’s nagging, semi-professional hook insistently repeats itself. It has White Fence’s Californian eccentricity, crossed with Le Bon’s low-key aesthetic, as Presley sings strangely affecting non-sequiturs in his quavering alto like “was raised in a story book on a story / keep your animal mind on me”. ‘Focus On The Street’ segues from fey proto-punk into a jazzy freakout like early Ariel Pink, while the early Fall-esque groove of ‘She Walks So Fast’ marries discordant guitar with sharp, prominent bass. Le Bon’s odd, removed vocal delivery suits weird moments like the title track and ‘Spilt The Beans’ perfectly, as the pair often swap musical duties. On the squidy, enjoyably formless highlight ‘Cannon Mouth’, her vocals are distorted to the point that they sound almost alien.
Disappointingly, Hermits On Holiday totally loses its way in its final third, beginning with the tiresome ‘Tim, Do I Like That Dog’, which consists of Le Bon asking Presley that question over and over again over the course of seven very hard-going minutes. It could pass for an extremely freeform Velvet Underground exercise, but is just too casual and piss-about. This spills over into the annoying ‘Cheerio’ and the overly-repetitious closer ‘Time Between’, consisting of little more than spacey keyboards. It’s a great shame, as the first six tracks are worthwhile and rewarding exercises that deserve to be housed on a better album than the one that Hermits On Holiday actually turns out to be. Drinks may well turn out to be a valuable diversion for Presley and Le Bon in the long run, but the music they’ve produced together could have been so much more essential. (5/10)
Listen to Hermits On Holiday here!
Tags: album, Cate Le Bon, Drinks, Ed Biggs, Hermits On Holiday, review, Tim Presley, White Fence
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