Jubilee Drive – The Drams
New West Records 6102
1968 was a helluva year.
In the space of a single month, three landmark albums released by British Invasion bands altered popular music forever: The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, The Beatles’ so-called White Album and The Kinks’ The Village Green Preservation Society.
Despite their chronological proximity, the trio couldn’t be more different. Six years removed from recording their first U.K. single, “Love Me Do,” in September 1962 and four years after States-side Beatlemania was born from their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles follows the Fab Four’s flirtation with psychedelia and reflects their newfound discovery of both The Band and The Bard. While less widely acclaimed, The Kinks’ The Village Green Preservation Society is no less a masterpiece. Recorded during the band’s four-year ban from performing in the United States, The Village Green Preservation Society is Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies’ nostalgic homage to English country life, eerily reminiscent of its trans-Atlantic cousin Music From Big Pink, released in the same year. The Stones’ Banquet, meanwhile, with its greasy guitar licks and raunchy rhythms, was the Stones at their sleaziest, a primal record that returned the band to their blues and r&b roots following their psychedelic stint on 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request
Thirty-eight years on from that monumental month in ’68, three albums issued in 2006 by American bands and friends Centro-Matic, Drive-By Truckers and The Drams may ultimately have the same lasting effect on popular music as their 60s British counterparts.
As thoroughly British as The Village Green Preservation Society was in ’68, Centro-Matic’s Fort Recovery is Americana to the core. Will Johnson’s rustic vocals ride across an austere plain of fuzzy guitar riffs, sparse violin and thundering drums, engendering the same sense of warm familiarity that Davies’ odes to the pastoral simplicity of the English countryside. Both place the listener instantly at ease. One could stop the Stones comparisons at “Aftermath USA,” the third track on the Drive-By Truckers’ fantastic A Blessing And A Curse. The jangly guitar intro is vintage Keith Richards, sounding hauntingly similar to the riff Keif conjured up for “Brown Sugar” on the floor of Muscle Shoals Sound, the studio Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood’s father partly owned for better than 25 years.
If any of the three American bands reflect The Beatles, it’s The Drams. On their fantastic new record, Jubilee Drive, the walk the tight rope between straight rock n roll and pop, The Drams achieve a power-pop sound driven by blistering guitar work from Jess Barr backed by a pummeling rhythm section of drummer Tony Harper, bassist Keith Killoren and keysman Chad Stockslager that brings to mind The Beatles on cuts like “Revolution #9,” “Back in the U.S.S.R,” and “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” But it’s frontman Brent Best’s ebullient, catchy songwriting and the band’s soaring vocal harmonies on songs like “September’s High,” “Unhinged,” “Truth Lies Low,” and the album-apex “Holy Moses” where The Drams reach that perfect mix of saccharine pop and sacred rock, a happy medium rarely achieved since four blokes from Liverpool.