Drive By Truckers – English Oceans (ATO) CD REVIEW

A previous lineup of Drive By Truckers.
A previous lineup of Drive By Truckers.
I CONSIDER IT my job to sit through stuff that would make a Hindu wedding celebrant comatose. (Hey, have you ever been to a Hindu wedding? Those guys can drone on for hours.)
Every job has occupational hazards, and the hazard most likely to strike the hapless reviewer is sheer boredom. I can handle aesthetic affronts, because tastelessness can be entertaining. Similarly, I can handle appalling, because appalling albums can be a great source of humour. (I’m laughing at you, bubs, not with you).
Drive By Truckers belong in the comatose category. I really don’t know who would want to bother with this. It’s not awful, just dreadfully mundane. In fact, listening to these 13 songs was about as painful as sitting through a box set of Ice Road Truckers, with extras.
A lot of great bands have come out of Athens, Georgia over the years, but Drive By Truckers have taken 10 albums to come to a kind of double-act variety show that’s at best schizophrenic, and at worst, lacks character.
1388256100_frontPart of the problem is that Patterson Hood is sharing songwriting duties for the first time with the band’s other guitarist/vocalist, Mike Cooley. On paper, Hood’s high-pitched voice (which has that same slightly off-key whine that makes Neil Young unmistakable) might make a nice contrast with Cooley’s baritone, but it just reinforces the unmistakable feeling that English Oceans is a set of songs without a compass or an anchor, just a random compile of styles.
Some are over-amped Neil Young-wannabe (that name again) rusty rockers (‘When He’s Gone’), others are simple truck stop slop (‘Shit Shots Count’), while every now and then they’ll diversify into a folk-rock drone (‘Primer Coat’) or a storybook sea shanty (‘Made Up English Oceans’), a bit of folk balladry (‘Til He’s Dead Or Rising’), or hokey country rock (‘Natural Light’). It’s all competent (that kiss of death word), and it’s all undistinguished.
The current lineup of Drive By Truckers.
The current lineup of Drive By Truckers.
Famous for their analogue sensibilities, the recording quality is perfectly good – gutsy and fibrous without any hint of digital CG – but it doesn’t make up for a record that’s about as much fun as terminal constipation. [Not that I have any experience of that unfortunate condition] GARY STEEL
Music Rating = 2.5/5
Sonics Rating = 3.5/5

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