The angst-ridden, transcendent, skull-busting guitar attack of vintage Neil Young and Crazy Horse informs The Drones' music like raw genetic material. In the tradition of San Francisco's Dream Syndicate in the early '80s and the staunchly Midwestern Eleventh Dream Day of the following decade, The Drones, who hail from Melbourne, Australia, make abrasive, emotionally direct music that owes everything to Mr. Young without ever sounding exactly like him. Opening track "Jezebel" has so much passion and distortion that it seems to physically vibrate any room it's played in, even at low volume. The rest of the album stretches out and milks its tensions, with several songs starting off slow and quiet, then gradually working their way into various levels of rabid frenzy.
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"Work For Me" stands apart as a vocal showcase for bass player Fiona Kitschin, whose sweetly insouciant voice is a perfect counterpoint to main singer Gareth Liddiard's feral dingo yowl. The final track, "Sixteen Straws," is the most extreme of all, a harrowing, grotesquely graphic tale of a prison break and its aftermath that fairly drips with death amid the very dregs of human filth, with lyrics like "The chief flogger was mad, I heard the guard say / He'd wash his lash in a bucket and drink the remains" delivered with a dead-eyed matter-of-factness that is truly chilling. Not for the faint of heart (or stomach), Gala Mill finds The Drones proudly carrying forth the torch of vital, uncompromising guitar rock. Just in time, too.