Rock’n roll has always had a thing for the drone. It goes as far back as the psychedelic era, when certain young rockers became fascinated with Indian ragas and the work of early minimalists like LaMonte Young. While their more mundane brethren tripped out to the likes of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, the more enlightened listened to We Will Fall by the Stooges, Lady Godiva’s Operation from the Velvet Underground and The End by the Doors, just to name a few.
Like all good things, it had to end. Psychedelia went the way of the cut-out bins until a new generation rediscovered it in the post-punk era. More critically, droning would still be relegated to far left field, with the likes of New York no wave and various other fringe acts keeping it going in the U.S.
Then it suddenly became cool in a pop sense of the word. Most importantly, the Dandy Warhols found a way to make it really work for them. Then there were other bands doing their atonal best.
One neo-psychedelic band doing fairly well is The Upsidedown. Out of Portland, Oregon, Bad Wiring is their third CD over the last decade or so. Overall, they sound a bit more poppy than the Warhols and a lot more cohesive than the Brian Jonestown Massacre. There’s only one problem with this record, and that’s even after 3-4 straight through listens, the tracks don’t simply drone, they start to drone on and on…and on and on. In other words, even though there’s apparently 12 tracks on this release, it really sounds like about, ohhh…say two; the opening track Something Good and then the rest of the release.
Not that this is a totally bad situation. The first few tracks, from Your Sister’s Cool to about the title track, it’s actually a pretty enjoyable experience. The Upsidedown have a pretty upbeat attitude, and are also fairly smart about it. Their mix of drums/bass and four discordant guitars works overall. At the same time, you can’t tell that the likes of REM’s Pete Buck, the Warhols’ Peter Holmstrom or the Massacre’s Colin Cegna have added their own guitars on various tracks. They are buried in the wall of sound and low key vocals.
So while this band is good for a track or two, when it starts getting on to an hour it gets pretty monotonous. Then again drone masters like the Velvets knew how to mix it up; kick out a savage rocker or tender ballad. The UpsideDown should take a hint or two from this.