Published on October 28th, 2007 | by Hans Fruck0
The Drones / Snowman / Witch Hats
(The Corner, 27 October 2007)
Five years ago, walking to work down Koornang Rd – that was the first time I heard the Drones. Triple R sicced Hell and Haydevils onto my unsuspecting ears, and I was never the same. It musta been a strange sight for passing motorists: 7am in the morning and some dude standing motionless on the footpath, because I had to stop – I couldn’t walk and listen. Some things need undivided attention. Half a decade later, and I caught the Drones for the first time in yonks at the Corner. And fuck me, their sweaty, hardscrabble washing machine of rock, country, and blues still stops me like a frying pan to the face.
But first things first… I turned up earlyish and caught the Witch Hats’ last two numbers. Their wall of guitar punk – I defy anyone not to stomp their feet to Before I Weigh – made me regret not getting my shit together and arriving earlier. But hey, spilt milk and all that.
Next up were Snowman. Only knowing them via repeat listening to Smoke and Mirrors, I was expecting some unholy – but interesting – Frankenstein of surf guitar, mariachi brass, spaghetti western, and punk. Instead the WA four-piece were heavy as fuck – and so LOUD and bassy that my internal organs jitterbugged and my leg hairs vibrated. What co-singer and guitarist Andy Citawarman lacks in altitude he makes up for in energy and vocal range, switching effortlessly from hoarse shout to a pure upper register. As cool as Snowman were – and judging by the way the room filled when they came on, plenty were there to see them – the night was all about the Drones, baby, and their set showed why.
To my eternal gratitude, the set included the irresistible bassline of Six Ways to Sunday and the guitar crunch of The Miller’s Daughter, surely two of the best songs ever fucking written. After opening the set with Jezebel, frontman Gareth Liddiard smashed his way through The Cockeyed Lowlife of the Highlands, a frenetic guitar-sawing tale of bank robbery, hypodermics, murder, and a treacherous bitch called Marjorie. From there, it was a nocturnal tour through a series of stone-cold killers: Hell and Haydevils, a malignant square dance overbrimming with child-snatchers and settlers who clear the land of more than just crops; Sharkfin Blues, about a boat and circling sharks, and so vivid you can smell the salt and feel the desiccating sun; and I’m Here Now, with its anguished ‘You’ve gone from perfect to divine’ refrain. No kidding.
The band were tight as a drum, the guitars beautifully tortured, and Liddiard’s delivery, as always, seemed too heartfelt to be precise. When you hammer out elemental songs steeped in blood, guilt, death, and dust, only a cracked howl and a quaver will do.