Prey Drive have had nowhere near the previous attention of some other alt-rock up-and-comers, but they seem to be moving a lot quicker. The only thing to really go on is the positive reception of their Tabula Rosa EP as an impressive slice of post-hardcore drawing from the likes of Biffy Clyro and Circa Survive, but a full album already might be seen as a bit premature. As good as that EP was, it was a rather limited display of their talents, and while Once More With Feeling could easily be seen to rectify that by giving them more room to expand themselves and open up their talents, the hints of Prey Drive running before they can really walk are unavoidable. It’s good to see them pushing themselves rather than sticking to the rigid slew of EP releases like so many of their peers, but it’s not as if no seasoning is needed at all.
And on Once More With Feeling, that feels like a factor that remains prevalent pretty much throughout. That’s not to say this is a bad album – as far as the move to straight-up alt-rock goes, Prey Drive have assimilated into their new skin nicely – but it can feel like a band hitting the Britrock beats, safe in the knowledge that it’ll be the safest option to take. And that can be a real shame, especially when Prey Drive have proven their abilities to create more inventive alt-rock landscapes that only appear in pieces here. The guitar work in Pancakes feels a bit more limber and agile in tackling some more complex rhythms, while Death Breath shows a very clear ability to pull off something a bit darker and more powerful that puts more of a strain on Brad Smith’s vocals in the best possible way. These are flashes of real promise that come across as more scant they should, and while Prey Drive are more than capable of handling some default Britrock tones with the necessary gusto (the likes of Foxes and the title track really stand out as far as sheer size goes), it can be a bit safe at times. It’s a testament to their talent for simple melodic composition that the stodgy ballad Night Rainbow is the one true weak point, but musically, there’s little ground this album is rooted in that doesn’t unfortunately sound too anonymous for its own good, particularly in the sweeping production that, as ever, drowns a lot of what’s here in colourless bluster.
There’s at least more that can be said positively about the writing, and while that largely comes down to a turn of phrase or image that’s a bit more intriguing to see woven into tracks as fairly conventional as these, they certainly have more personality. The main standout in this regard is Star Wars Kid in its awkward but unrelentingly charming search for love, and Smith’s very mid-level, approachable vocal tone gives a track like Sugar High a more endearing twist. As far as the typical Britrock framework of unflinching emotionality paired with an everyman, hangdog sensibility, Prey Drive find a way to make resonate more than most, and it leads to Once More With Feeling being a satisfyingly melodic listen overall.
“Satisfying” is about as far as it can be really taken though, as there’s still a lot of room for Prey Drive to develop their sound and make something more with it. As it stands, this is good for a first longform effort, but the feeling of a band edging into that slot with caution is rather unavoidable upon listening, even if Prey Drive could have afforded to move past those reservations. As it currently stands, Once More With Feeling works in its status as a springboard for Prey Drive to do more, but when that does comes, the shortcomings in this debut will inevitably become more apparent.
For fans of: Deaf Havana, Fatherson, The Xcerts
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Once More With Feeling’ by Prey Drive is released on 9th November on KROD Records.