Review Summary: An amazingly powerful album that has taken all the right steps, in all the right places. Much more intricute and beautiful than 'Wait Long...'; but at the same time still very brutal and honest. Australian indie rock at it's best ladies and gentlemen!
'Gala Mill' is The Drones fourth full length release (third studio album); and their second album within 12 months; following their highly acclaimed release 'Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of your Enemies Will Float By'.
The Drones are:
Gareth Liddiard - Guitar/Vocals
Fiona Kitschin - Bass Guitar
Rui Pereira - Guitar
Michael Noga - Drums
I'll start by saying that this record is a massive step in the right direction for The Drones; and that is not to say that they're previous album wasn't either; the talent and the ability was all there from the start, and Wait Long got all the attention it deserved, receiving Australian Album of the year from some company or another. But it lacked the flow that these classic albums have, each song was to it's own, and there wasn't much holding the album together. Gala Mill is an album of emmence feeling and sorrow; with a stonger basis on the slower more intimate and climatic side of The Drones.
I find The Drones capture something that no modern Australian band does, and that is to capture the nature itself of the Australian outback. Both Wait Long and especially Gala Mill scream ... "australian outback! with no one around and just a small cottage sitting in the middle of a vast dry, desert, with a rainwater tank sitting next to it, with the blazing hot sun bearing down on you from every possible direction." The imagery that comes along with listening to Gala Mill is incredible; and i find it isn't just Liddiards amazing Australian accent, or his absolutley beautifully brutal lyrics; but the sound as a whole. The Drones for me, are everything an indie/rock band should be.
Liddiards lyrics have always been of a narrative nature; full of harshness and brutal honesty; but on this record his lyrics are just so much more - 'Sixteen Straws' being a nearly 10 minute long song, without any percussion, is based around an encounter with a 'prisoner' lying half in the water on a Brisane beach; and this prisoners story. It's almost heartbreaking to listen to:
'Well i heard a rumour, in the barracks one night,
the jew and o'brian had fashioned a knife.
they planned to kill Logun, but my will was broke,
my brain realed with a secret and the next day i spoke.
they put me back on again, with no word of my actions.
o'brian and the jew got 300 lashes.
o'brian came off the triangle with exposed shoulder blades,
his skin never healed, he turned morbid and strange.'
Another example of Liddiards compelling lyrics from 'Words from the Executioner to Alexander Pearce':
'Tell me how are you coping, now that it's time to leave,
how can you burn more, you've been burning for years.
They assumed when you fled, you were good as dead
was indifference crueler, than your nothing to eat"'
Another excellent step this album takes is the inclusion of bassist Kitschen into the vocals; on 'Wait Long' she only sang to back-up and/or harmonize with Liddiard. She has taken a more immediate role in the band by singing the whole of 'Work For Me' and the amazing melodic 'chorus' of 'Words from the ...' She has a delicate and subtle voice, that suits the slower, intimate songs well.
The Drones have also grown with Gala Mill's "un-crowdedness" compared to 'Wait Long...' I think the first album sometimes tried to be too thrashy and loud, and in the end became too much for some listeners; where as Gala Mill takes the edge off, and at the same time creates a more diverse and broad album; with instruments like xylophones and violins taking on a slightly larger role in the album. I think this comes down to the level of song writing that The Drones are capable of (very high). The female vocals/strings duo in 'Work For Me' gets me every time; so delicate and nice to listen to.
Jezebel (three disjointed verses with amazing lyrics (last verse makes gives me shivers) - three chorus' repeating "i would love to see you again' = hells yeaaah)
I'm Here Now ("you've gone from perfect, to divine" yeah this song rocks)
Words From the Exectioner to Alexander Pearce (beautiful and heart breaking, one of the slower songs; chorus harmony = the shizz)
Work For Me (who doesnt like female vocals!)
Sixteen Straws (will make you weep, if you let it)
On the whole an amazingly beautiful and powerful record; which takes all the right steps, in all the right places. If The Drones continue to make records of this quality in these short times; i must start to wonder what their secret is. Check it!