Sounding like the long lost Irish member of a famous Australian family, the uniquely named Dearbhla Minogue has been through a number of bands already, and still has a finger in more than one such pie.
Her latest venture, The Drink, was formed in London in unusual circumstances; the singer/guitarist, who is also the main creative force behind the new band, spent hours listening to her future band mates David Stewart and Daniel Fordham practicing in an adjoining flat, their tight rhythm section making quite an impression on the Irish lass. After the dissolution of their then band Fighting Kites she swooped and they were off.
Minogue had left her native Ireland for musical reasons; she could have remained in Ireland but the lure of London, where her mother spent several years, was too much, as was the desire to ‘control’ a band that she could mould into her own vessel. As such, she writes all the songs for debut offering Company, her imagination of other people’s experiences rather than her own experiences forming the basis for much of her writing.
The Drink play chamber-pop, with spiky guitars provided by Minogue being at the heart of the band and they self-describe their sound as “odd guitar pop with a dark folk undertone”. It’s clearly tinged with American/English/Irish folk but Minogue’s vocals are the biggest, most distinctive aspect of the band.
Microsleep opens the album and is a direct introduction to the band’s key themes: sharp, icy guitars, rubbery bass that knits seamlessly with percussion – and vocal gymnastics that are all over the place, evoking memories of something Medieval, or ecclesiastical even. It gets less intrusive; both Dead Ringers and Fever follow a similar path with unusual melodies highlighting the vocals once again but they’re a little more controlled although the most memorable aspect of the latter is its pounding bass, with distinct vocal melodies difficult to pin down, being up and down and all around. The former, meanwhile, benefits from a spindly guitar line that lodges itself in the old grey matter along with a little vocal to guitar call and response.
With many tracks sounding remarkably similar it’s not the most varied of albums. This is driven by the overall sound itself rather than the songs themselves, Minogue’s voice being capable of jumping around through an impressive range but remaining the biggest, most immovable ingredient.
Album closer Haunted Place switches between a slow and fast pace and is greatly enhanced by more twanging bass, the non-conforming structure intriguingly different whilst Beasts Are Sleeping uses an icy guitar to elevate proceedings; “frozen in time alive”, sings Minogue, but in all honesty some listeners are likely to feel as if they have been frozen in time themselves such is the overall monotony. But then, like a bright light splitting the darkness comes Playground; recalling Paul Simon’s Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes with its calypso like guitaring it’s an absolute joy, indeed a diamond amongst rough cuts. This time Minogue’s vocals are deliciously spot on and it makes a huge difference, “I know what heaven looks like”, she sings, and for all Company’s blandness this one song screams potential from every quarter.
Company is perhaps a bit of a cheat of a debut album, consisting entirely of tracks drawn from the band’s three EP’s, spectacularly named One, Two and Three so those fans hoping for new material will be disappointed. And with Minogue’s vocals sounding so unique and often overbearing, it’s here that you will inevitably make the decision as to whether or not this particular drink is for you, or if it’s just a little lacking in flavour.