Cinematically speaking, Drunk is a band that ought to be approached not as a static film, but rather as an ever unfurling serial. Indeed, their many public episodes run like connect-the-dots that express a full range of human discourse all embodied in one unified corpus. There are the manic moments of ferocity and tension release ("Miscellany" from RAISED TOWARD), the beautiful moments of melodic playfulness ("Dorothea" from TABLESIDE MANNERS), the brief stops of satire along the way (their footstomping rendition of "Martyr To The People" from their split 7" with the Young Pioneers), and then there are the rare glimpses into the more contemplative and routine -- and, dare we say, serene -- as found on "The Round Couple", which is the A-side and crown jewel of this new single. And such magic does not go unnoticed. Jagjaguwar artist Patrick Phelan heard an early demo of this Rick Alverson-penned song and quickly recorded it for his debut solo album SONGS OF PATRICK PHELAN, therein beating Alverson to the punch, releasing it before the Drunk-founder could release the song on one of his own records (by either Drunk or his own "more solo" project Spokane). That song can now be heard through its writer's voice, in its writer's house. And thank goodness for that. The B-side is an older Alverson song entitled "St. Theresa" which was recorded in 1995, a very pretty song which shows Drunk at its earliest roots.
Tableside Manners are post-Christmas musings for the emotionally truant. The songs all deal with familiar Drunk themes -- notions of arrival or becoming, coping with expectations, exploring the crossroads where personal politics intersect with existential deliberation. But on this record the delivery vehicle of these themes is substantially different. Tableside Manners is less melancholic and more upbeat than previous Drunk albums. It relies less on exploiting and contorting musical traditions of the past. And while the words and ideas of this record act like a smooth compress on the back of the neck, lulling the listener, many of the rhythms and melodies, instead, rebel against this plaintive end. They act to move the body, to get the foot tapping, to invoke physical instead of spiritual rumination.Drunk's fourth full-length demonstrates first and foremost that Drunk is a band hellbent on not making the same record twice. Call it chronic reinvention syndrome. While it has been fairly easy to gauge how Drunk have changed sonically over the years, it has been much trickier to track the band's musical development -- or, more specifically, the evolution of Rick Alverson's songwriting. For instance, the band's third record, RAISED TOWARD, features songs from Alverson's warchest that were written way before Drunk was even conceptualized. Which makes TABLESIDE MANNERS different -- it is thoroughly a collection of Alverson's newest songs, all of which make a very strong case for Alverson's recent emergence as an important, truly distinctive American songwriter.
RAISED TOWARD -- thirteen songs for sufficience and disregard. Drunk's third full-length release features the gently effective words of Rick Alverson set amidst the workings of a full range of musical contraptions. The songs Alverson and crew have put together on RAISED TOWARD are cut from the same cloth as those of many of the great lyrical composers of our time (and slightly before our time): Leonard Cohen, Tim Foljahn, Nick Cave and Mark Eitzel, to name a few. If RAISED TOWARD resonates in that special, timeless style, it is not for want of fragility or the grace of inexperience, or for lack of innovation and youthful exuberance. Drunk has all of these to spare. They are, according to one magazine, "far ahead... in the race to the define the new American sound."
Drunk's harrowing second release is borne of circumstance and built on the back of various folk traditions. Whether the subjects conjured on TO CORNER WOUNDS arise from nostalgia or from fantasy, nothing is really stated. There are no morals. According to one magazine, TO CORNER WOUNDS evokes "a dreamworld where ghosts of the old world commingle diffidently with those of the new."
Celebratory, contemplative, melancholic: a quick description of Drunk's stunning debut, A DERBY SPIRITUAL. This is the album that established both Drunk as an important musical entity. According to one writer, "Drunk, all arpeggios and sentiment, are a cross between slow Sparklehorse, the Band singing about Dixie, and Russian dirges -- true smart rock for smart people (and really, really beautiful to boot)." According to Jennifer Nine, writer for Melody Maker, "Drunk, whose no-bones name could scarcely do justice to their graceful sweetness, know just what bones hold you together... [they] move with the drowsy precision of music-box figurines. They sound like a sleepy chamber orchestra in threadbare clothes..."