Some few years ago, I expressed my befuddlement at the first Drinks record -- and I also explained why I simply refuse to write the band's name in all-caps as it's shown elsewhere. And, since I only review things here that I like, I faced the challenge of trying to outline the positives of a record that really sort of puzzled me.
Well, now, in 2018, I'm happy to report that the new Drinks album, Hippo Lite, out Friday on Drag City, is a good deal easier to embrace. If anything, Hippo Lite sacrifices none of the experimentation of the first album from the band, while offering up a new layer of accessibility. "Blue From The Dark" blends a bit of Sixties-style chamber pop with an insistent melody to start the album, while the jittery "Real Outside" echoes both early Talking Heads and Slits records. To name-drop those artists is not to suggest that Tim Presley sounds like David Byrne, nor that Cate Le Bon sounds like Ari Up, but, rather, that Drinks clearly owe a huge debt to artists that pursued new textures and rhythmic attacks in the immediate post-punk years some decades ago. "In The Night Kitchen" is more angular, while "Greasing Up" nods in the direction of those V.U. cuts where John Cale took the lead, to go even further back for a comparison point. "Leave The Lights On" is a good showcase for Cate Le Bon as a vocalist, while closer "You Could Be Better" marries the more avant-garde approach of Drinks with something that sounds a bit like the sort of thing routinely offered up by bands like Broadcast or Lake Ruth.
Drinks have taken a lot of risks here on their second album, even as they've edged a tiny bit closer to what makes up a fairly mainstream strain of alternative music in the 21st century. Given that, I'd heartily recommend Hippo Lite to both fans of Tim Presley (White Fence) or Cate Le Bon, as well as to listeners in search of something a bit more adventurous than lots of what's out there at the moment.
Hippo Lite is out on Friday via Drag City.
[Photo: H. Hawkline]