Stepping out from under the Broken Social Scene Presents moniker that marked his first solo record, Darlings finds Kevin Drew striking out more or less on his own while still maintaining some of the hallmarks of the bands original sound. If the sometimes seventeen member’s strong group could ever be described as having a front man then Drew would fit the bill, his powerful lyrical style, taking in everything from politics and society to the seedier aspects of human sexuality, featuring on the majority of the bands tracks, even if he’s not always the one singing them.
Whereas his first semi-solo outing Spirit If retained Broken Social Scenes vibe of a group of friends jamming out in the garage, this is a much more focused effort that aims to showcase Drew’s more intimate, stripped down songs.
Darling’s is a very slickly produced, synthesiser heavy record that nonetheless still showcases Drew’s raw emotional style. However for a lot of the record you can’t help but miss the diversity and variety of styles that features on Broke Social Scenes best records. Quiet to loud slow burning ballads featuring explicit lyrics on drugs and sex are alright when there’s a couple of them smattered across a record, however when you’ve got nearly eleven of them sequenced back to back it doesn’t hold up quite so well.
Drew’s always been fond of a controversial lyric; “Children sleep with dicks” and “I swore I’d drink your piss last night to see if I could live” spring to mind. However across this record the lines feel less like a piece of edgy poetry or a sexy come on and more like a mischievous eight year old that’s just learned a new rude word.
On album opener Body Butter Drew coos “Get the body butter baby lets go party all alone” and “We’ll take the huddle with the seamen”. Despite the tracks gorgeous aching synths and smooth guitar work the songs topic can’t help but make your stomach turn. This same problem occurs over following track Good Sex, again very strong musically and sounding like a natural successor to Spirit If’s TBF (Too Beautiful To Fuck), it’s one of the records most accessible and upbeat offerings but with lyrics like “Good sex it never makes you feel clean”, you start to hope the subject matters going to change.
It’s Cool is one of darlings strongest cuts and shows how effective Drew can be when he calms down for a minute and rights a warm piece of chilled out indie electronica. The track features great programmed drums, melodic guitar and bass lines and soothing back ground synths that start to sound reminiscent of the string sections on some of Broken Social Scenes most beautiful chamber songs.
It’s Cool’s strengths aren’t really repeated till later on in the record until My God comes in with more of the strong programmed beats and synthesiser parts that almost sound like the work of some lost great ambient producer. “I’ve got a river filled with dollars that connects to the words in my gut” showing that Drew’s still capable of writing a strong lyric. In between those two however are numerous production heavy clunky songs that wouldn’t even of made it onto BSS’s below average Forgiveness Rock Record. Mexican After Show Party and Bullshit Ballad feel like rushed off simple numbers that survive purely on one tossed off lyrical hook apiece.
Drew’s former band mate Leslie Feist shows up to add some much needed diversity on You in You Were, one of the records strongest tracks which gets to show how well Drew and Feist’s voices work together. Their voices float over rhythmic, borderline jazz, live drums and chunky keyboard and synthesiser parts. The two sing together, “Its the way the you were” harking back to a time when they played on stage together each night, wrote music together and even shared the same bed.
You Got Caught goes back to earlier tracks trends of repeating a phrase over and over again until you’re ever so slightly confused of its meaning, except that it’s probably supposed to imply something about promiscuous sexual activity. The record ends with And That’s All I Know, another highlight featuring the records strengths; pianos, electronic rhythms and studious bass lines working in harmony while Drew sings more ambiguous yet strangely effecting lyrics and bashes out some synthesiser riffs reminiscent of Sega’s best computer game soundtracks.
All in all Darlings is not a bad record and you very much get the feeling that its creator was successful in accomplishing what he set out to do. However what made Broken Social Scenes’ best record and indeed his last solo outing so effective was this feeling of communal song writing and collaboration, the diversity in styles, genres and singers. On their best effort such as you You Forgot It In People, one minute you’re listing to distorted 90’s college rock, the next minute a whispered acoustic ballad and then some near ambient instrumental post rock. Newcomers to Drew’s music will enjoy this record a lot more than the fans used to such high standards. That being said however if Lovers Spit, Safety Bricks and World Sick were always your favourite songs, you’ll find a lot to love here.
By Josh Bennett