Review Summary: Members of The Bronx, The Distillers, and Los Lobos unite and produce some refreshingly back-to-basics punk rock of the highest standard.
The side-project is a strange beast. On the one hand, it offers musicians the change to try their hand at different styles without the restraints or expectation of their full-time band, or to merely prove that they're not a one-trick pony. On the other hand, it can signal a distaste for their full-time band, and possibly signal the end. One would expect The Drips
to fall into one of these categories, as they consist of members of The Bronx
(vocalist Matt Caughthran and guitarist Joby J. Ford), The Distillers
(guitarist Tony Bevilaqua), and more surprisingly, Los Lobos
(bassist Vincent Hidalgo and drummer David Hidalgo Jr.). Well, neither of these examples applies to The Drips
, because despite popular belief, they claim that they are not a side-project at all, but merely a group of friends from more well-known bands, jamming out a few tunes for the sheer fun of it.
This approach is fully evident upon giving the album a spin. It has that feeling of being laid back yet not the slightest bit lazy, and effortless yet energetic. Influences are present from the members' other bands, but with a twist. If The Distillers
and The Bronx
paint pictures of street life, violence and the heavier aspects of culture and life in Los Angeles, then The Drips
sees them heading down to the very beach that adorns the album cover, with their friends and a few cases of beer to kick back and enjoy the summer sun. The whole album is relentlessly upbeat, and even the slower, wistful "16, 16, Six"
will have you stamping your foot to the laid-back beats, and the chorus melody provides a light at the end of the tunnel.
Aside from the aforementioned "16, 16, Six"
the album consists of 10 mid-to-fast tempo punk rock songs; all scuzzy guitars, laced with infectious melodies, and topped-off with the ever-honest, simple yet thoughtful lyrics of Matt Caughthran. It may come as a surprise to those who are accustomed to Matt's vocal work in The Bronx
and Bullet Treatment
, that his delivery here is gruff yet amazingly melodic, in fact not a world away from that of Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music
fame. Considering their background in the decidedly un-punk-like Los Lobos
, the Hidalgo brothers acquit themselves well and provide a solid backbone for the songs. Despite the general lack of musical variation, no song ever fades into the next or goes by unnoticed; the quality of the songwriting is such that every riff, every drumbeat, and every line is catchy enough to keep the listener's attention throughout, and at a few minutes shy of half an hour in length, the album doesn't outstay its welcome. The unpolished yet solid production values only serve to endear the record to you even more.
It's hard to recommend particular tracks, due to the similarity in style, but for the sake of those wanting a few pointers to start with, my favourites are "Broken," "I'm Gone," "16, 16, Six,"
but to be honest, there's not a bad song to be found on here. After a few listens, you'll find yourself realising that this could well be one of the best punk rock albums of 2006, refreshingly free of any cliches or trends, and packed to the gills with honesty, energy, and catchy melodies. "Surely not?!" you'll think, "This can't be THAT good, it's just a bunch of friends mucking about, playing songs in their spare time..."
...But isn't that what music is all about? If The Drips
have anything to do with it, that'll be a resounding "YES!"