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Drugs Dragons Deliver a ‘Disgusting Mess of Negativity and Debauchery’

Jul. 23, 2014
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II & I/II, the new record from Drugs Dragons, will probably not find its way onto anyone’s short list for “feel-good record of the year.” With song titles like “Sick Laugh,” “Rotting Face” and “Love, Love You With Knives” the Milwaukee-based quartet is miles away from easy listening. In fact, perhaps the best word to describe the experience of listening to II & I/II is “uncomfortable.” The record’s 12 songs take the listener on a noisy, queasy ride. II & I/II sounds like it was inspired by life in the gutter—and then recorded in it.

“We definitely go for a ‘sound,’” explains Drugs Dragons’ vocalist Puke Drugs (a nom-de-stage up there with Poison Idea’s Pig Champion and Ringworm’s Human Furnace). And Drugs’ menacing, all-over-the-map vocalsare a huge part of that sound. “Personally and lyrically,” he continues, “I was trying to paint a portrait of madness, just a disgusting mess of negativity and debauchery, the sound of demons wallowing in filth and debasement.” Such an approach helps create what Drugs describes as the “hallucinogenic fever dream feel” of II & I/II.

Adding to the unsettling feel of II & I/II is the guitar playing of The Tonys Sagger. Sagger’s multidimensional—even unpredictable—playing allows him to set an eerily ominous tone on album opener “Rabid Quasars” while pushing the afore-mentioned “Love, Love You With Knives” into anthem territory. In many ways, Sagger’s guitar work brings to mind the playing of East Bay Ray of Dead Kennedys (a band that one would assume all of Drugs Dragons are quite familiar with). And just as East Bay Ray’s riffs worked incredibly well with the vocals of Dead Kennedys’ vocalist Jello Biafra, Sagger’s playing perfectly complements the vocal lines provided by Drugs.

Yet the secret weapon behind Drug Dragons’ sound may be Josh White, whom Drugs describes as an “excellent studio magician” and who recorded II & I/II in a suburban Milwaukee home. White was seemingly able to create an open atmosphere for this session (the album was recorded in just one day), a fact that makes the end result sound both organic and authentic. Due to White’s loose grip on control in studio, Drugs notes, “We weren’t afraid to take chances or make mistakes, and we were confident enough to bring some really bizarre ideas to the table. Although, as usual, we just used that energy to make the album sound as ugly, demonic and mean as possible.”

There is little doubt that Drugs Dragons have succeeded on that front. But what is perhaps most remarkable about the songs that make up II & I/II is that they mine these depths so self-consciously. In so doing, the band reminds the listener of the complexity of humanity, warts and all. This is no small task. “Maybe we should be embracing the full spectrum of human experience,” concludes Drugs, “rather than the experiences that are deemed socially or morally acceptable. I guess what I’m saying is that we’re no angels, but that’s because, unlike angels, we actually exist in a real world.” The real world never sounded so messed up—or so strangely appealing.

Drugs Dragons play a 10 p.m. album release show on Friday, July 25, at the Cactus Club with The Blind Shake, Midwives and Slow Walker.


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