Ignoring the fact that the very idea of a two-songs-on-one-side, digitally printed twelve-inch single could easily be defined as the height of twenty-first century indulgence (and, potentially, the pinnacle of missing the point from a ‘back to vinyl’ analogue-lovin’ standpoint), it’s awfully difficult to argue against the quality of the two songs which appear on this preview release for The Drowns’ forthcoming full-length album, Under Tension. Between them, the cuts encompass a wide sonic cross section which reaches from hard, tight pop-core (a mix which is more jagged than pop-punk, but is more aggressive than melodic hardcore too) to surprisingly smooth and melodic punk as well. In effect, what listeners get is tantalizing bait for both the music and the medium that, once they’re exposed to it, will have listeners aching for more.
To its credit, the easiest way to express what “Hold Fast” represents in the grand scheme of things is to simply say that it’s the ideal way to open this single and introduce the band. First, the little hairs on the backs of necks will start to spontaneously stand at attention as the minor chord progression (which is barely overdriven) that opens the cut leaves them feeling a little helpless. It’s a great, cathartic act of tenderness in its’ way; there, singer/guitarists Aaron Rev and Andy Wylie show listeners in and then back off to let them get comfortable before the cut’s second movement starts up, Rev takes the lead on the mic and he shows listeners how well things can go on a good day. For the duration of the cut, Rev growls sternly in a firm but not overly aggressive manner as he turns in lines about punk solidarity to believable effect before barking his way out the proverbial back door. Pound-for-pound and note-for-note, this single’s opening track is a solid intro for the band; true, it leaves a bit to be desired, but it could also be easily argued that the first song is just intended to get listeners hooked in for more – and “Hold Fast” does that.
Immediately after “Hold Fast” gets listeners’ attention, “Demons” ventures out onto more classic Social Distortion terrain to offer listeners a bit of a change – in every way. Listeners will find they’re hooked again by the harder-toned rhythm guitars and the melodic lead, but will be wholly surprised when they figure out that the song itself, while powerful, features none of the trappings normally associated with any form of harder rock music – there’s little in the way of distortion and little in the way of conventional over-sped chord progressions. In this case, all the power comes from the performance; Andy Wylie steals the mic and delivers lines like “Sometimes safe means to resign” which feel bitter and poignant here, and are contrasted brilliantly by the vocal melody employed to deliver them. Running at a full minute shorter than “Hold Fast,” “Demons” guarantees that listeners will be left wanting more from the Drowns when the song ends and the needle lifts from the single.
…And that listeners are left wanting more so dearly when the Drowns wrap this single is absolutely the best part and clearest proof that listeners have been won on it. I mean, yes – this single was made uniquely and features a bunch of frills which may make it collectible, but the greatest and most interesting part of this single is the two songs pressed into it. Those who hear the songs will be the ones who line up to find the full-length album on which they appear when it’s released, without question.
(Pirates Press Records)
The Drowns’ “Hold Fast” b/w “Demons” picture disc 12” single is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records. https://shop.piratespressrecords.com/collections/the-drowns/products/the-drowns-hold-fast-demons