Record Reviews

Drowned by Law

Rock music is usually better when it’s made by thugs, queers, fuck-ups and deadbeats. So it’s good that a group of unapproachable, potentially malevolent, will-screw-your-lover-without-a-second-thought style bands have appeared in Sydney over the past five years. The variety is nice. Groups like Circle Pit, Atrocities (now defunct), Kirin J Callinan and The Nevada Strange are a welcome change in a music community where to be different is often to be stubbornly ignored. These groups, somewhat detached from the traditional warehouse scene(s) and too rough for the mainstream indie venues, have tended to languish in inner-city dives such as Club 77 and Candy’s Apartment on a weeknight, or in their own homes.

The Nevada Strange ride an aesthetic long associated with the plight of down-and-out urban malcontents: circularly stalking bass lines, acid rain guitar feedback and the stentorianly intoned vocals of the chronically paranoid. You can almost taste the dirty speed on your gums when ?From the Sea at Night? oozes forth, a gaudy march into an amphetamine addled subterranea. That’s where the band dwells for the duration of this disc: the curtains drawn and flickering fluorescents switched on, trudging through four catchy and syrupy death chants to a crowd of swaying onlookers.

While Drowned by Law doesn’t sound bolted together for a market keen to relive St Kilda or Darlinghurst circa 1979, the four-piece do draw unapologetically from that canon, particularly Albert Wolski’s guitar, which sounds as strikingly caustic and tortured as Rowland S Howard’s. He’s at his most effective during ?Crawlspaces?, a gaunt and sun allergic love song to the (literal) underground; to escaping sunlight in favour of a perennially nocturnal parallel world, drenched in peripheral noise and feedback. In a lot of ways, the Nevada Strange is tapping the same vein as HTRK and the Devastations, but this is more surreal and lyrically ambiguous. It’s without the hedonism of the former or unabashed romance of the later.

Regardless of its stylistic debts, Drowned by Law* evokes a sensual and foreboding world far removed from the gloss of a city so apparently eager to exterminate its compelling imperfections. *Drowned By Law – and the scene Nevada Strange move within – might be proof that inner-city Sydney isn’t a barren corporatized latte-land after all. If we’re lucky.