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Drastic Andrew – Live Without Warning

Everyone needs to distinguish themselves from the pack somehow. When and if you read about Drastic Andrew dubbing their musical style as “New Rock Country Wave”, try to not pay attention. They mean well. They want you to understand. However, there’s no reason to clutter up what they do with labels that just confuse people. Above all else, Drastic Andrew is a rock band. However, rock music for them is a flexible medium, one subject to influences from multiple forms, and not a static collection of riff-centric tropes with a savage lead vocal. Instead, Drastic Andrew are interested in musical synthesis, finding the common ground between disparate forms and exploiting it for their songwriting. It’s resulted in three albums, thus far, of uniformly impressive quality. Their third and latest full length album, Live Without Warning, solidifies Drastic Andrew’s reputation as one of New Mexico’s finest musical exports. Their fusion of indie rock, country, pop harmonies, and even blues never sounds forced.

Their rock chops are apparent on a number of cuts. The opener, “Now”, mixes their rock sensibilities with a healthy wash of keyboards and understated vocal harmonies. “Alien Creature” is much more of a straight-ahead guitar workout but both of these tracks are distinguished by vocalist Andrew MacLauchlan’s oddly musical delivery. His phrasing is impressive and his voice capable of genuinely emotive moments. “Evolution” plods along at a steady tempo while the band’s two guitarists, MacLauchlan and lead guitarist Ben Wright, thrash out mammoth chords that sound like gathering thunder clouds. “Send Him Back” and “Walking With Me” dive deeper into the heart of pure Americana music. The first song is an enjoyable, souped up rockabilly number while the second shows the band’s perhaps unexpected affinity for playing blues music.

The band’s quieter turns, like on the title track and “Pedestrian Love Song”, are more often defined by their melodic content and their relatively mainstream approach. The former is an unsurprisingly affirmative song with a delicate, almost crystalline, vocal while the second is a slow moving, but colorfully melodic piece of work. “Humble” is another fine track coming later in the album and has a surprising amount of humor for what is often treated with gravest concern. The album’s final two rockers, “1812” and “Plunder Away”, seem like natural neighbors in the running order, but the former stands apart from the latter thanks to the sheer level of musicianship required to pull of those tempo shifts. The second track is a rollicking, certainly thrilling time, but contains none of the sophistication or durability of the earlier tune. The album’s closer, “End of the Line”, is a wistfully elegiac song with a number of surprising lyrical turns and a final, definitive performer from vocalist MacLauchlan.

It’s a miracle these guys have stayed off the major radar for so long. Everything is here. The willingness and talent to shape the music in a more commercially viable direction while still maintaining the courage to face whatever reproach might be coming and keeping a tight grip on your integrity. Nothing here feels or plays like a compromise. Drastic Andrew’s Live Without Warning is a must have for any serious modern rock fan.

9 out of 10 stars.

Larry Robertson