Dregen – S/T

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Review by Brian McGowan

Spinefarm Records

Founder member of both The Backyard Babies and The Hellacopters, and now in Michael Monroe’s band, Dregen could probably dine out every day for the rest of his life on those CV entries alone. This is his first ‘solo’ album. He’s joined by erstwhile Hellacopters’ bandmate Nicke Andersen and Par (Wannadies) Wiksten, who also handles production duties. Dregen is one of those guitarists whose style is unassuming. He’s a man who thinks that the fuzzy, impatient barebones strum of an electric guitar, wedded to an ironclad beat and a soul searching lyric is all the content you’ll ever need. That garage/punkrock ethic runs through the work of all his previous bands (and has clearly influenced the new MM album, moving it away from Ginger’s rather more full-on, ragged edged hard rock). The fact that it’s been recorded using high tech studio technology is no irony. As a subculture, punk’s long been subsumed. The music is the message now (and to be honest, has been for quite a while).

Opening track, ‘Divisions Of Me’ sets out Dregen’s minimalist stall with the merest flourish. One of those down to the bone tracks where “everything but the kitchen sink” means adding the odd piano “plink” on the verse or sketching some bgvs into the chorus. Standout tracks, ‘Just Like That’ and ‘Pink Hearse’ are scuzzy punk power pop, vital, primal, tuneful. Driven by uncomplicated yet powerful stop-chord progressions that might remind you of The Knack or those other Babies, the criminally underrated Big Bang kind, whose edgy Glampop was headed in this direction before guitarist Kerri Kelli got poached by Alice Cooper.

Lyrically, Dregen’s understated songwriting is filled with grimly poetic observations on love, life and living, some cryptic, some clear as light. Wikstrom’s unpolished, low key production alternately puts Dregen’s vocals right up front, darkly intoning the words of ‘Flat Tyre On A Muddy Road’ like it’s the highway To Hell or deftly integrating his careworn croon with noisy electric guitars and tumbling tom toms on the bleakly beautiful ‘Bad Situation’ and ‘6:10’. He closes the album with the fiercely powered polemic, ‘Mojo’s Gone’. The words come bubbling out his mouth like molten lava, condemning today’s rock’n’roll artistes, lamenting the demise of classic rock. Unsurprisingly, it all sounds rather like The Backyard Babies, which is a Good Thing .. . as it may herald their return. I can think of nothing better.

Meantime, this solo album will do just fine. It’s a bit short weight at 34 minutes. But that’s a punk thing, isn’t it? Get in fast, do the damage then get out again.

Dregen 20138 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Divisions Of My Life
  2. Just Like That
  3. Flat Tyre On A Muddy Road
  4. Gig Pig
  5. Pink Hearse
  6. Bad Situation
  7. One Man Army
  8. 6:10
  9. Refuse
  10. Mojo’s Gone