REVIEW ROUND-UP: Rain City Drive, Dawes, Torus

A crooked neon sign of Rain City Drive’s logo

Rain City Drive

Rain City Drive

To catch anyone up to speed to who isn’t aware, Rain City Drive is the new name of Slaves (US), a band who disappointingly became more anonymous the further they got from having Jonny Craig as a singer. It’s not flattering to have that as their only quality, but it’s all that’s noteworthy about them anymore when they’re still bringing up the rear on poppy, polished-to-an-insane degree post-hardcore that most have fallen off of by now. Even with a rebrand, the impetus to follow suit with their sound is clearly not there in more of the same with no flair or intrigue factor whatsoever. As a sole upside, Matt McAndrew’s voice has the granular benefit of giving them catchier hooks and choruses, though that can just as easily be attributed to a performer coached in pop that still doesn’t differentiate much in overall tone. Ergo, Rain City Drive are practically indistinguishable from any number of similar acts, a cross-section of tropes that all the Warped Tour C-listers picked up on, with the only difference being this one is coming way past its prime. As for the sound itself, what is there to actually say? The guitars are constantly overpowered, to where they’ll resemble more a light rumble implanted in the walls of production; meanwhile the bass will occasionally jut out with the odd flourish before sinking back into nothingness, and the drums are far too loud and heavy to contribute positively to any smoothness or slinkiness that Rain City Drive wish to foster. It’s not even worth bringing up individual songs when they all suffer from the same issues, and really only pull themselves back thanks to decent melodic instincts up front. Even then, there’ll be an outlier like the creaking, awkwardly lumpy R&B of Psycho that’s a rather underwhelming centrepiece on an album that doesn’t have a lot going for it in the first place. At least that isn’t the fault of McAndrew’s smoulder, which is the best thing that Rain City Drive have going for them to elevate lyrics that are hardly enticing, particularly on a song like Dreams. At the end of the day though, this is as innocuous and uneventful as it gets, a comeback that most likely no one wanted and delivers on that basis exactly. If you’re somehow not bored of this sort of thing yet, fill your boots because this is more of that with the element of surprise surgically removed, to the extent where any perceived ‘reinvention’ feels entirely pointless.

For fans of: Picturesque, Awaken I Am, VRSTY

‘Rain City Drive’ by Rain City Drive is out now on Thriller Records.

Dawes’ name carved in stone with grass beneath it and moss growing on top of it


Misadventures Of Doomscroller

Fancy some new rock music packed with all the thrills and firepower you could ever ask for? Well friend, this is most definitely not the album for you, though would you expect different from the ninth full-length in a catalogue that—let’s be honest—doesn’t have much of a wide profile? Right now, Dawes come off as one of those bands making music for no one except their current fanbase, which probably explains why this is the direction they’ve chosen for Misadventures Of Doomscroller. If present-day John Mayer found a kinship with jam bands and ‘70s AM soft-rock players, the end result is effectively that, as Dawes noodle through blues-y jam-folk numbers that amount to some of their longest compositions to date, topped off with Taylor Goldsmith’s breathy croon. It isn’t precisely good, mostly because Dawes don’t achieve much of worth that couldn’t be done with an average runtime, but it’s also not hard to see where the appeal comes from. Opener Someone Else’s Café / Doomscroller Tries To Relax feels like the optimum end point for this sort of thing, keeping the free-roaming bass and drums light and loose for guitar clicks and synth burbles to be placed over, and remain generally catchy through it. That is, until the deviation into a soul pastiche that’s soldered on halfway through, presenting Dawes’ ethos of trying their damnedest not to peter out before they’ve hit at least six minutes in the least elegant way possible. It’s not like these songs are all that exciting to begin with, and that elongation tactic doesn’t do much to help; even among the more manageable cuts like Comes In Waves and Joke In There Somewhere, they’ve got a pillowy soft-rock detachment that’s incredibly difficult to find anything to latch onto. Furthermore, when you translate that ethos to the lyrics, it comes across less like grand, forward-thinking statements being made, and more like the reflexive, non-committal ‘politicking’ that can make a lot of modern folk artists and singer-songwriters feel so insufferably smug. Thankfully Dawes never fall that deep, though any points for trying to be more conscious can’t make up for what rarely winds up as more than mild, pleasant background music where every stretched runtime dissipates any semblance of punch. Yes, it’s designed for their audience in particular, who’ll most likely get more of a kick out of it, but that isn’t the get-out-of-jail-free ploy that most with attribute it as. It’s closer in design to a band resting on their laurels, of which this bears a lot of the same hallmarks.

For fans of: John Mayer, The Avett Brothers, Steely Dan

‘Misadventures Of Doomscroller’ by Dawes is released on 22nd July on Rounder Records.

The band members of Torus blurred and layered on top of one another



Time to talk about another brand new band, for whom the grading scale needs to be amended slightly to compensate for how deeply within their influences they still are. In the case of Torus, theirs can quite easily be traced back to Queens Of The Stone Age primarily, on a debut EP that’s not unsuccessfully toeing the line between homage and out-and-out impression. They don’t really hide it either; on a track like Did It Again with its very specific guitar patterns and vocal inflections, especially in the falsetto, the comparisons invite themselves without much hesitation. That being said, Torus do it rather well, where they won’t falter too often in riff-rock banality in a move that’s historically proven difficult to manoeuvre through. They mightn’t have the flavour but the meat is definitely there, best exemplified in how the title track or Hurt You lean more into the psychedelic swirl of what’s in view for a more active sound. At its core though, Sail is striving to be little more than a few big rock anthems to get Torus’ name on the board, a valiant goal that wears its limitations on its sleeve, but owns them nonetheless. The lyricism is nothing special—and nor is Alfie Glass’ voice, in all honesty—but it’s fit for purpose in the way that Queens Of The Stone Age, or more pertinently Royal Blood often are. The instrumental approaches are basically the same, where apart from a slightly off mix for the drums, Torus carry themselves with the customary swagger and bravado that’s needed. Considering the corner of rock they’re orbiting around, none of that is too surprising, compounded by a four-track EP format that doesn’t allow for that a great amount anyway. At this stage, it’s more an observation than an issue, with Torus laying down some foundations at this point and doing it fairly solidly. Nothing is earth-shattering yet, but between their own newness and the sort of music they’re making, that wasn’t really on the table. At least, not as prominently as the hope of a solid new band in their field, of which the waves they’re making would definitely attest to.

For fans of: Queens Of The Stone Age, Royal Blood, The White Stripes

Sail’ by Torus is released on 22nd July on MNRK.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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