Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Drones: Live at the Hi-Fi

Fuck, I love the Drones. I hope the addition of the expletive indicates how serious I am. I mean, they’re pretty good, are they not? Show me some evidence to the contrary. I implore you. Today I’m penning a quick word about their latest live record “Live at the Hi-Fi”. I actually meant to do this over a month ago, but university demands unfortunately got me sidetracked.

According to the boffins, live albums can be perilously difficult to pull off. One presumes this is the case because so many factors lie outside the control of the artist. Too many variables may exist. For instance, the sound quality and the willingness of the crowd to engage with the band and vice versa are examples of items that can vary hugely from gig to the next. There are no second takes or overdubbing in the live arena.

Despite the obvious risks, I can think of some live records I really like. For example, “Setlist” by The Frames and “If You’re Feeling Sinister: Live at the Barbican” by Belle and Sebastian are two that stand out in my mind. So, if I’m asked to have a proverbial gander a live record with some semblance of criticism, these are the comparative dimensions generally considered.
Well, considering that, “Live at the Hi-Fi” is somewhat of a mixed bag. Recorded at the opening of the Hi-Fi Bar in Brisbane back in May 2009, I was lucky enough to be present at the gig. The Drones were at their mercurial best but since the gig was invite only, there were many in the crowd who obviously had never heard of the band before.

As documented on the record, the songs and the performance are great. It was tight, raw, and energised; pretty much what you would expect from a Drones performance. The tones come out crystal clear on the record. ‘Nail It Down’, ‘The Minotaur’ and ‘I Never Want to Change’ are very well performed. Some songs are missing from the record that was included in the gig setlist. From memory, “I Used To Be A Supercargo” and “Your Acting’s Like the End of the World” were performed on the night but did not make the record’s cut.

However, there is something missing which, for me, is important to the live mix. Generally, in the context of live albums, this record is good. The songs are great, the sound is immaculate, the band is tight, but yet there is something slightly amiss. It took me a few listeners to fathom, but I finally pinpointed it. There is little audible reaction from the crowd.

There could be many reasons for this, some I’ve already alluded to. It was perhaps not the best occasion to record the Drones with many people clearly unaware of their music. That obviously means that you can’t really expect them to cheer along to songs they don’t know. Hence, the lack of screams and adoration and loud cheers I guess.

However, this is not to say that this album is not worth a place in your record collection. If you’re new to the Drones, this might actually be a good release to pick up, as it cuts across most of their discography. There is even a cover of Kev Carmody’s “River of Tears” which is performed with true gusto.

I believe you can get this release through iTunes.

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