Choosing a band name is always a fraught business and in the case of London garage act Drugg one I’m not sure from this first outing whether they’re the real thing or merely an inert lump of chalk placebo.
It probably wasn’t the intention but having come away from a few listens of their debut EP “Shackled” I’m overwhelmingly left with the impression that if they themselves were a drug then at the moment they’re a little bit more Calpol rather than a hit with a little bit more to it. Unless of course someone has found a secret ingredient in the under six’s favourite tipple.
We all have to start somewhere however.
Aside from the lack of pharmaceutical credibility by far the biggest problem on the music front concerns Tom Hanley’s vocals. Hidden away in the mix and overly saturated with effects the overwhelming impression is not necessarily one of mystery or atmosphere as one imagines they hoped. Rather it feels that they’ve simply had to spend a lot of effort in trying to hide them away for fear of exposing either a/ a lack of lyrical imagination or b/ a distinct lack of vocal talent. Such is the extent of the covering up it would be no surprise if it was both of those reasons.
Which is a shame as musically there’s some good stuff going on here even if, like the vocals, the music feels unconfident in it’s production. Across the five tracks of the EP and there’s enough to suggest that the duo can shine, given time. But overall the problem comes back to the lack of dark bassness and at times it all becomes a little bit over-tuneful and dubstep-lite.
On both mixes of In Those Found Times Drugg almost hit a groove befitting of their dubious name and more so in the reshaped mix by Berlin DJ, Pole. It’s also probably the case that the track succeeds due to the absence of the lost at the bottom of a well vocal effect. Once the phasing, adding nothing to the track, whining comes back in on the other tracks and you’re left applauding some interesting sonics whilst simultaneously pleading with Hanley’s ego to leave the vocal aspirations behind. They simply don’t need it.
Similarly with Visions of Trees’ remix of Crooks. Despite some fairly standard LFO wobbling and Hanley’s wailing away in the background there’s something interesting enough to make me keep my ears involved.
From here it will be interesting to see if they can take that extra step towards a more confident originality.