If you’re one of those “I liked the first two Strokes records, but…” people, boy have I got a band for you. From the droll vox crooning out innuendos, jangly Smiths-y guitar licks, tune-drive dropouts, the dime-stop endings, and essentially unfettered production, there is some serious flattery going down on this debut. But then this New York quartet sound like the Kooks too (Long Hair, You’ve Got It Wrong, Let Me Finish), and probably a number of other forgotten post-Strokes signing frenzies, and, wow, can you believe it’s been 13 years since that Strokes debut?! These guys can, only they do something about it. A lot.
But by around the fourth song, the exuberant ripping open of the corduroy jacket to expose that Strokes logo starts to settle down. Then the peppey Pure Pleasure has faint echoes of pre-Smiths fey-pop, a la Felt, though that’s a genetic inevitability. Singer Matthew Hitt is from Wales, so that slight Brit inflection is, um, actually British, and slathers the requisite charm. Bar Chat gets a little trashier; and by the last two tracks they try a few little ‘70s rock leads—both of which hint at the slightly more umph-y live show they can muster. Having formed less than two years ago, the band has gigged around the Big Apple area a lot, making for a tight unit, and released an EP, Between Us Girls. Live, the band comes across a little like Hitt is the idea man and the other dudes are perhaps scene vet ringers who could knock this stuff out in their sleep. But on record, there is an irresistible sprightliness in the songs that says these guys haven’t worried once about their near-tribute sound. Hey, you’re the one who saw the Strokes in ’02. These guys and their friends only have YouTube boots, and want more.
And it ain’t like the early Strokes were winning any trailblazer awards. Plus, those early Strokes records were really catchy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But even for such well-done slavish devotion, the Drowners could use some tempo jiggering around, and that might come with time. As Hitt claims in “Unzip Your Harrington”: “I’m gonna hang around long enough to be part of the furniture.” We shall see.