Kevin Drew returns with his first solo effort since 2007’s Spirit If… without the attachment of a ‘Broken Social Scene presents’ label. However the influence of his behemoth collective is felt throughout, with Drew recruiting at least five other some-time BSS members/ collaborators to work on Darlings, namely Ohad Benchetrit, Charles Spearin, Brendan Canning, Jimmy Shaw and Leslie Feist. This being said, the album is not particularly similar to any Broken Social Scene album; if anything it is closest to 2001’s Feel Good Lost (apart from the fact that this album has vocals, of course), the themes jump between seedier and more vindictive, the instruments are sparser and the atmosphere is very much Kevin Drew plus supporting cast and nothing like Broken Social Scene’s trademark cascade of personnel.
Darlings opens with ‘Body Butter’, in which Drew invites us to ‘get the body butter baby let’s go party all night long’. The low-frequency pulses of the guitar, bass and synth set the mood for the rest of the album; the ‘party’ to which Drew implicitly invites the listener (a different party to the one that Drew wants to have with the subject of the song, hopefully) is a dark affair, the orange glow of a sunset shining through curtained windows vaguely illuminates the warm bodies at the party, who dance slowly into the night until they pass out old, dusty chairs, all to the soundtrack of this album. Even the cover art plays to this theme; the pink on black reminds of a seedier, slightly threatening, side of playful à la Drive and immediately Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ from the OST, a song which would undoubtedly feature on the playlist at this imaginary party
‘Body Butter’ fades into the lead single from the album, ‘Good Sex’, a piano-led ode to the triumphs, feelings and failings of nights of passion with a lover, with the guitar line in the refrain a perfect foil to the firm but speared piano in the verses. Critics would probably point to the lack of lyrical diversity in the song however and I am of the opinion that if anybody wants to call a song ‘Good Sex’ then they are entitled to write lyrics to that song which seem slightly repetitive but sometimes take the participant (be it the artist or the listener) by surprise, if you get what I’m saying. And besides, this reviewer has two words for people who criticise repetition in lyrics without good reason – ‘Robot Rock’.
There are three or four standout tracks on Darlings, namely ‘You Gotta Feel It’, ‘Bullshit Ballad’, ‘Good Sex’ and (my personal favourite) ‘You In Your Were’. As a lover of Broken Social Scene, my most-seen live band, it is no surprise that I love the latter, it is perhaps my yearning for new BSS material that makes me lose the power of speech when I hear the interplay between Kevin Drew and Feist’s vocals on this track. In short it is excellent (not ‘Almost Crimes’ perfect though). ‘Bullshit Ballad’ will also satisfy people who have bought Darlings anticipating a BSS-by-numbers. That is not to denigrate the song, which features Brendan Canning and Jimmy Shaw (also of Metric), it is by far the loudest on the album and contains a fantastic lyrical put down in the form of Drew’s positively acerbic ‘the vocals were too high/as your voice was slowly declining/your horrible whining’.
Don’t get me wrong; this album is not all killer, no filler. I’m not a huge fan of ‘My God’ or ‘You Got Caught’, and I have no idea what ‘Mexican Aftershow Party’ is, but almost every song on Darlings has a moment that makes you stop, rewind the track and just take a moment to appreciate a particular noise. Moments like the opening guitar line of ‘It’s Cool’ and the echoed fade out of Drew’s vocals on ‘And That’s All I Know’ spring to mind instantly.
Remember kids, Broken Social Scene this is not; but it’s a very enjoyable ride nonetheless!
Darlings was released on Arts & Crafts on 18th March 2014 (or at least that is when I got my copy)
Follow Kevin Drew on Twitter @kevinselection