Like a night of marathon partying that dissolves into gray pre-dawn light, the sophomore full-length from the UK’s Archie Bronson Outfit, Derdang Derdang, tells of our often unfulfilled desire for human connection. Melding joint-fueled philosophical quandaries with post-modern sexual disillusionment and frankness, Derdang Derdang is a comprehensive album of both radio-friendly singles and meandering, reverb-heavy chants. The trio of Sam Windett, Arp Cleveland and Dorian Hobday recorded half of Derdang Derdang while crammed into Hobday’s bedroom, and the second half in the basement of an old farmhouse, with a result that reflects the concentrated elements of a young, male musician’s life: sexual frustration, an earnest quest for meaning, a fascination with rock n’ roll history.
The catchy, garage-rock singles on Derdang Derdang—“Cherry Lips”, “Dart For My Sweetheart” and “Dead Funny” in particular—have caught the attention of taste-making DJs at KEXP and led me to expect a similar retro catchiness throughout the album. Yet Derdang Derdang is far darker, serious and more intense than I anticipated. Archie Bronson Outfit feels more like a tribe than a band, with even the aforementioned singles evocative of ritualistic jam sessions around a lonely campfire. With the strangled yelps of Windett, the throbbing, tom-tom drumming of Arp Cleveland, and the frequent descents into drone-driven psychedelia, Archie Bronson Outfit digs its nails in to scrape out the meaty core of jangling British rock.
Windett does, in fact, warble about nails being dug into his back. Lyricist and drummer Cleveland is preoccupied with oral sex throughout the album as part of a larger concentration on visceral, body-related imagery full of tongues, blood, fingers and skin. He writes of craving physical intimacy and of the emptiness that results when sex and drugs fail to bring their promised satisfaction. On the rambling, mellow track “Cuckoo” Windett sings tormented, “I wear my woe with a blood-stained nose…just dust and lust measure my bones”. Sex is repeatedly equated with pain in lyrics carried over from one song to the next, from the “little hooks that claw my back” in “Cherry Lips” to the monotonous chants of “broken fingers etched upon your hips…I don’t think I can get over it” in “How I Sang Dang”.
United by its thematic lyrics, Derdang Derdang descends from the pop sensibilities of its singles into the melancholic self-doubt of songs like “Modern Lovers”, where Windett sings wistfully about an empty, friends-with-benefits relationship: “We meet and we fuck and we don’t hear each other…We have no love; no love and no dancing”. The concentrated riffs of the album descend into whirling tambourine hysteria on “Rituals” before giving way to the acoustic final song, “Harp For My Sweetheart”, which paints an image of thin spirals of smoke exhaled by extinguished cigarettes in a gray, pre-dawn party aftermath.
Archie Bronson Outfit is not to be confused with the plethora of sixties-chronicling UK rock bands; Derdang Derdang is exciting and easily accessibly without being overtly commercial. Archie Bronson Outfit is a smart band, and has combined knowledge of rock music history with incisive yet blunt lyrics and their own impassioned playing. The result is an album that warrants being played on repeat, all while cutting to the very marrow of our tormented, early-century existence.
– Mary Mulholland