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Tom Sheridan
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The Drones songs. Ranked.

Fuck it, Tropical Fuck Storm and Gaz's solo record too, the whole shebang. Just about the best to ever do it.
93The Drones
Havilah


Luck in Odd Numbers

An absolute non-starter of a melody doesn't help. Havilah's self-consciously abstract approach to lyricism robs of it a different potential in-road. And uncharacteristically passionless performances all around, instrument and microphone, don't do it any favors. But the biggest problem is that this middling three minute cut is actually stretched close to nine. It has little business as a B-Side, much less the longest thing on it's album.
92The Drones
Here Come the Lies


New Kind of Kick

The Drones never had an aversion to covers, and a fair few pop up on this debut. This is the worst of the bunch, a Cramps redo whose martial thump doesn't play well with The Drones chaotic scree. If anything, they each dilute the charisma of the other.
91The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Henry Ford

Technically, it's a B-Sides comp, but approaching it that way does a huge disservice to the unhinged (and suprisingly coherent) garage-isms of The Miller's Daughter. Henry Ford is the rare cut here that eases off the gas, and fills it instead with... not much? A little atmosphere maybe, but even then just enough to give a sense of potential missed.
90The Drones
Here Come the Lies


The Scrap Iron Sky

The songs on Here Come the Lies follow a fairly strict formula - blues adjacent licks on Fi's rigid bass backbone that slowly but oh so surely wind up in the middle of cacophonous guitar wailing and sonic abuse. Many find some unique element in the specifics of the road it takes getting there, or how high the towering climax reaches. The Scrap Iron Sky, though, just comes off rather rote and predictable, not aided by its sequencing near the end of the tracklist.
89The Drones
Havilah


Penumbra

The last of Havilah's four minimalist chamber cuts, and the sparsest. The music is stripped almost entirely to a single forlorn acoustic strumming chords almost as an afterthought. This effect would be utilized beautifully for the complicated storytelling of the solo record to follow, but like Luck in Odd Numbers, Havilah's alienated approach leaves it rather hollow. The occasional addition of uneasy strings adds something, but not much of it.
88The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


She Had an Abortion That She Made Me Pay For

Aside from the petulant title, this is perhaps the most rote, least attention grabbing cut off The Miller's Daughter. It's an energetic enough, rhythmic enough, ornery enough song surrounded by numerous tracks that do those very same things with so much more verve. Name notwithstanding, it's hard to remember this one by the end of the record.
87The Drones
Here Come the Lies


The Island

Like The Scrap Iron Sky, it's a late album casualty of a formula that's already played most of its hand. The Island's a little quieter than that counterpart, which lends it a slight step up in dynamics.
86Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Desert Sands of Venus

An instrumental psychedelic mood piece before Braindrops' moody climax, Desert Sands of Venus can't really stand up on its own, but it isn't really meant to. It does what it needs to with a nice bit of vague eerieness.
85The Drones
Gala Mill


Work For Me

The rare Fiona fronted Drones cut, Work For Me's the lesser of the two. The initial mood is properly compelling, and brittle as a sun-bleached bone in the desert. It's a perfect tone piece to add another shade of nuance to the superb Gala Mill record, but it doesn't develop much past that first impression.
84The Drones
Havilah


Careful As You Go

Another of Havilah's moodier cuts, it's got more going on than Penumbra, but still feels defined by an over-reliance on a limited palette that doesn't go far enough in any direction to properly define itself.
83The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Slammin' on the Brakes

Another cover, this from New Zealand singer-songwriter Spencer P. Jones. The noisiness of those early Drones recordings ain't abandoned here, but it does come off softened by the lilting melodies and rhythms of the original piece, that in turn lose some of their loose skip. This is still The Drones we're talkin' about, after all.
82Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Maria 62

Winds up feeling somewhere between an interlude piece and a song unto itself, but its hushed demented lullaby sensibility is a nice touch. Made even nicer with some excellent percussive rolls courtesy of Hammer that clarify nothing about the track's elusive approach to rhythm.
81Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


Shellfish Toxin

Laughing Death's own psyched out mood space. Less outright malevolent than its Braindrops counterpart, this one comes off more akin to a technicolor trip gradually coming unhinged. Still not really meant as a standalone piece, but its incorporation into Laughing Death's wonderfully unorthodox sequencing is magnificent (see: Soft Power way, way down the list).
80The Drones
Here Come the Lies


DeKalb Blues

Cover. Lead Belly this time. For all their punk snarl, the core of early Drones music still feels far more indebted to the Blues than it does patches and leather. They wear it nicely here, the music itself more restrained than most of Here Come the Lies, while Gaz still gets a fair bit of his charismatic yelping in.
79Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Aspirin

As Braindrops moves into its second half, it shelves a fair bit of the first half's propulsion. Aspirin is the the fully-fledged song most committed to this restraint, and it works. For the most part. Rather than the naked austerity of much of The Drones more muted cuts, Aspirin still maintains Tropical Fuck Storm's synthetically springy approach, achieved on Braindrops by recording through equipment used more prevalently in electronic and techno recordings. Drums and bass are big and blown out, while the guitars stumble around drunkenly. Fi's and Erica's line by line backing vocal trade-offs are a highlight, and there's quite a bit in the way of interesting texture. Still, the song relies too largely on a singular idea to not come off at least a little one note.
78The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Tailwind

Feelin' Kinda Free sees The Drones disbandment and Gaz and Fi's move to the trippier side of the sonic spectrum with Tropical Fuck Storm as pretty inevitable, in retrospect. What roots they had in rock music as an offshoot of blues tradition isn't anywhere to be found here. Tailwind really runs with that idea, and finds some exciting strangeness in its layers. Still, the songwriting momentum sometimes takes a back seat amidst all the effects pedal worship.
77The Drones
Here Come the Lies


The Country of Love

The last couple tracks off Here Come the Lies take some steps to pulling the record back from the brink of redundancy. Closer The Country of Love wraps things up with a nice jolt of freewheeling energy, bold and sweaty and carousing its way through stomping riffs. It's nowhere close to reinventing the wheel, but it's a good damn time. Sometimes, that's enough.
76The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Bird In a Church

Short, blunt, and vicious. Trouble is the association, following immediately on the heels of a track even shorter, blunter, and more vicious. These two open The Miller's Daughter with a take-no-prisoners intensity, but Bird in a Church can't help but feel a little lesser standing next to Someone on Your Bond. The concluding rhythmic shift resting almost entirely on Gaz's delivery of the title lyrics is a nice touch.
75The Drones
Here Come the Lies


I Walked Across the Dam

A little more give and take here regarding the build and release, with the tension never quite resolving the hazy sense of menace.
74The Drones
Havilah


The Drifting Housewife

Another soft-spoken Havilah cut. The verses have a gentle folkiness to them that points back to Gala Mill, but their warmth is undercut by both the hostile lyricism and the sinister strings that peek in here and there to make sure nobody's getting too relaxed.
73The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


Sitting on the Edge of the Bed Cryin'

One of the earliest sign of The Drones interest in expanding in softer, subtler territories, this late Wait Long... cut eases off the throttle in favor of an insistent trot and and Gaz supplanting barks and howls with gentle verses and the occasional fragile falsetto. It's all strangely approachable for the detailing of an intimate existential crisis. It still dips into noisy familiarity here and there, but these moments feel almost rote.
72Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


Did She Scare All Your Friends Away

A tumble of words on soulful arpeggios, it's one of the most straightforward storytelling pieces off the solo record (although the second person address in the opening lines and not mentioned again adds some understated complexity to the whole affair). The relative busyness of the guitar lines weakens the atmosphere a touch (at least relative to a record the frequently conjures the crackle of burning logs and the bite of wind whipping up), but Gareth's bitterly empathetic poetry is a monument unto itself, and this cut's no slouch there.
71The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


The Freedom in the Loot

Wait Long...'s opening four song salvo is a tough mountain for the remaining tracklist. Freedom in the Loot's got a lot to recommend it. It's got a reasonably explosive energy, but it doesn't leave blisters behind the way Baby² can. There's a nice tension in its dynamics, but it's not quite the stately viscera of The Best You Can Believe In. Guitars howl and shriek, but have you heard the instrumental in the middle of Locust? Christ, it ain't Shark Fin Blues. As such, well made as it is, it never quite feels essential.
70Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


The Planet of Straw Men
69The Drones
Gala Mill


I Don't Ever Want To Change

Even with a couple prior hints scattered here or there, Gala Mill was the first sign The Drones had their eyes on something beyond a particularly eloquent barrage of garage noise, littered with folkier inclinations and a focus on dynamics as more than a means to an eruption. I Don't Ever Want to Change is the exception, a barn burner at the midway point in the tracklist just in case you forgot this band's pedigree. In one sense it feels like leaning on the excuse of track list dynamics to still have some tiny little safety net in place to The Drones of "old," but in another the Drones of old kick fucking ass.

"Left the sun impaled on a receipt spike" is one of their most indelible images.
68The Drones
Havilah


Cold and Sober

The best of the outright quiet pieces on Havilah, it still feels (as they all do) a precursor to the more accomplished Strange Tourist, but there is a tangible atmosphere of loneliness here that adds the emotional core its associate cuts lack. It's a tune for sitting alone in a motel staring at the ceiling as the filament in the overhead lamp lags a minute behind the switched off light switch.
67The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


I Believe
66The Drones
Here Come the Lies


Downbound Train

Cover, Chuck Berry now. The verse just builds and builds and builds in its accumulated energy until all hell breaks loose with a yelp of "Stop that train," and some of the most cacophonous caterwauling on perhaps the Drones' most cacophonously caterwauling record ensues at an absolutely Hellish pace. And then the verse comes back, almost as long, with another caterwaul to follow. The track essentially repeats the exact same structure to the exact same end, and by the end of it's near eight minutes is a bit redundant. But that first half, holy shit.
65The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


You Really Don't Care

The Drones high energy rocker by numbers. Doesn't matter so much when it's rife with Gaz's raucous shrieks. Usually, "by the numbers" implies a lack of personality. Bullshit.
64The Drones
Here Come the Lies


6 Ways To Sunday
63The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Sometimes
62Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


Two Afternoons
61The Drones
Gala Mill


Are You Leaving for the Country?
60The Drones
Havilah


Your Acting's Like the End of the World
59Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Maria 63
58The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Then They Came For Me
57The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Private Execution
56Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


The Happiest Guy Around
55The Drones
Gala Mill


Dog Eared
54Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


A Laughing Death in Meatspace
53The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


To Think That I Once Loved You
52Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


She's My Favorite
51The Drones
I See Seaweed


The Grey Leader
50The Drones
Here Come the Lies


Motherless Children
49The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


The City
48The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots!!!
47The Drones
Havilah


Nail It Down
46Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


The Collaborator
45Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


The Future of History
44The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Taman Shud
43The Drones
Here Come the Lies


Hell and Haydevils
42The Drones
Gala Mill


I Looked Down the Line and I Wondered
41The Drones
I See Seaweed


A Moat You Can Stand In
40The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


The Miller's Daughter
39Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Who's My Eugene?
38The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


Baby²
37The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Stop Dreaming
36The Drones
I See Seaweed


How To See Through Fog
35The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Shut Down SETI
34Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


Chameleon Paint
33Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Braindrops
32The Drones
Here Come the Lies


I'd Been Told
31The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Mean Streak
30The Drones
Havilah


The Minotaur
29Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


Blondin Makes an Omelette
28The Drones
Feelin Kinda Free


Boredom
27Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


Antimatter Animals
26Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


You Sure Ain't Mine Now
25The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Well Well Well
24The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


This Time
23The Drones
I See Seaweed


They'll Kill You
22Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


Rubber Bullies
21The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


Locust
20The Drones
Gala Mill


Words From the Executioner to Alexander Pearce
19The Drones
Havilah


Oh My
18The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


The Best You Can Believe In
17The Drones
I See Seaweed


Laika
16The Drones
Gala Mill


I'm Here Now
15The Drones
Here Come the Lies


Cockeyed Lowlife of the Highlands
14The Drones
Havilah


I Am the Supercargo
13Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


Paradise
12Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


You Let My Tyres Down

Absolute masterclass in building tension into points of cathartic release numerous times, but never letting the release last long enough to release any of the tension. Song's a straight up noise psych rocker imagined as a shaken soda bottle that has to have its cap unscrewed in cautious increments.
11The Drones
The Miller's Daughter


Someone on Your Bond

The shortest song here, and if it was any longer, it'd be liable to split an atom. Kicks in the door with a classic old school Drones punk blues barn burner, and by the end it's shot the pilot in the cockpit before the plane's even taken off.
10Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


Highplains Mailman

Absolutely choked with lonely imagery, juxtaposing stories of a mailman riding his quarter-horse on the highplains, alleviating the solitary nights with only the company of the campfire and stars overhead with the letters he sneaks to read from his pack. There is a special, mean-spirited delight in the ones that depict others desperately falling apart in their own isolation. Somewhere nearby, a wild dog, also supposed to be part of a pack, barks until it doesn't, succumbing alone to its wounds in a trap set for rabbits.
9The Drones
I See Seaweed


Nine Eyes

A vindictive nighttime dive into Google maps and an increasingly desperate, jealous excoriation of the assholes that live in the places you once called home, attached to a classic lurching bassline from Fiona that displaces any sort of comfort traditionally found in a bass "groove," into something that almost resembles sea sickness, until Gaz and Lusky ride the whole thing into the ground with an extended instrumental outro.
8The Drones
I See Seaweed


Why Write A Letter That You'll Never Send?

So many Liddiard-penned songs build themselves around the contents of a letter written in desperation, 'cause what the fuck else is there to do? This is the absolute pinnacle, a "friend's" (unless it's really the speaker distancing themselves from the contents of their own pleadingly misanthropic train of thought - much the same distance a letter allows). An extended atmospheric verse sets the scene, before a second leads to a central crescendo that in but a few couplets packs in jingoistic American imperialism, the Holocaust, and the Catholic Church's allegiance to fascistic power. There's another verse too, a desperate exhale. The instruments step back, and the song doesn't so much end as leaks out its last stores of energy over a repeating plea. And so ends the album.
7Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


Strange Tourist

A sad, lonely story, windingly told (no shortage of those on Strange Tourist), distanced via narrative conceit from that very same loneliness (ditto). This one takes the most lively instrumental of the record (still just an acoustic, but holy shit does Gaz play his fingers raw here) to follow an unlikely protagonist - the passive observer to a downfall of an old friend, who by the tragic end, is more of a Someone-from-a-Past-Life. The protagonist reconnects with the ill-fated driver of the narrative in a hospital ward, the former working as a night shift contractor who serendipitiously sees the latter wheeled in in a coma. But ultimately this is a story of images - dragging mattresses up stairs by the sea, rusting vans, camping beneath Mount Fuji, drug arrests in Madrid nightclub bathrooms - all so displaced within their own stanzas that they can't help but reveal the whole picture in a way a more focused story could never hope to.
6The Drones
Gala Mill


Sixteen Straws

At heart, Gareth is a storyteller. In recent years, some of that talent's been hidden (note: neither lost nor diminished, merely abstracted). And why shouldn't it be? How can straightforward musical storytelling surpass the minimal, almost-spoken word folk of Sixteen Straws? It mines Australia's history as a British penal colony (not the only time on the Gala Mill record) for a longform re-imagining of the Moreton Bay folk song as a graphic, vicious story of (mostly) Catholic convicts sentenced to what some might call a fate worse than death, who in protest opt for death by fate.
5Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace


Soft Power

It bubbles, and burns, and seethes, and builds, and builds, and fucking builds - no chorus, just verse upon anxious verse, that should erupt at any given moment from the internal pressure. It never does, though, and that's the trick. An eruption is a release, a catharsis, even if it accompanies devastation. The waiting is over. Soft Power never gets there. It dissolves without warning just past the halfway mark, like a strip of burning celluloid, into a hauntingly silent requiem for pop culture iconography in The Wizard of Oz and Happy Days, sinking into the cadaver of escapism from the nightmarish reality depicted in those initial escalating verses. And traps you there in limbo via the psychedelic dreamscape of the subsequent Shellfish Toxin (Laughing Death is absolutely perfectly sequenced as an album, and more than anything else here, is disserviced by an independent track ranking)
4Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist


The Radicalisation of D
3The Drones
I See Seaweed


I See Seaweed
2The Drones
Wait Long by the River...


Shark Fin Blues
1The Drones
Gala Mill


Jezebel

"We're recording, Shut up," Gaz yells at some yapping dogs at the outset of the song, and its parent record. A pause, and distorted guitars step tentatively into the fold, until the rhythm section enters and donates the spine the guitar lines will wind themselves about throughout. And this carefully organized musical approach is absolutely imperative for a song that lyrically casts a net as wide as The Drones, or any associated project, ever has. Biblical allusions. The roll of the West in terrorizing and balkanizing the Middle East and the resultant campaign of Islamophobia. Human nature and blood lust that might be a cause or an effect, kind of hard to tell these days. Dan Pearl, beheaded on video. Radioactive isotopes, birth defects, and cancers. And a chorus that sounds almost romantic. If only, if only, if only.

"That ain't gonna happen now." The song ends as it began, visceral and wholly confused in the madness and inhumanity of past, present, probably future.
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