Way back in March, I wrote about CLT DRP in a fever of excitement, having just stumbled across their single ‘Where the Boys Are’, describing it as “the most exciting song I’ve heard all year”. My opinion is almost entirely unchanged (See Baby Queen for why its almost), and the wait for their debut album has been excruciating. Now, after a 3-month delay, Without the Eyes is finally out, and I have the immense joy of bringing you a review of it.
In the event you struggle to remember how to pronounce CLT DRP, the album opens with a heavily modulated voice questioning it. According to the band, it’s an easy fix’ for this error.
From the very first full track, the album is on top form. That is to say, brutally heavy, in-your-face, and stompingly moshable. Opener ‘I Don’t Want to go to the Gym’ is an absolute tune. It perfectly introduces the band’s brutal sound and no-shits-given attitude, within an area they often venture into – perceptions of gender. It’s a powerful exploration of body image, in a time where it’s a topic being endlessly discussed thanks to the powers of social media. The message of body positivity without exerting pressure or image expectations is powerful and all too infrequently explored. “I love my body but I wouldn’t choose it” feels like the critical line here – self-love is possible while wanting something better, and it can often feel like this message gets shut down in online platforms.
Sonically, everything CLT DRP do is pretty similar. Between guitarist Scott and drummer Daphne, they’re unceasingly heavy, whether it be with a guitar effected to be half synth and half heavy metal or by smashing out intensely rowdy, cymbal dominated beats with an energy even Dave Grohl would be impressed by. This is by no means a complaint – no other band I know of, blends electro and punk themes into such a convincing sound. It’s the sort of sound that leads to mega circle pits, and when they finally get to play live again, I’ll see you right in the middle of one.
If that doesn’t sound right up your street, I can offer you a chunk of consolation – ‘I Kill For Nothing’. It’s the most relaxed track on the album by a long shot. It’s quietly menacing, building an atmosphere that summons up visions of haunted moors in classic horror. The oft-repeated line “I kill for nothing, always have always will” doesn’t do anything to contradict that, and the vocal performance is alternatively threatening and tortured, only adding to the discordant vibe. Though this is the quietest Without the Eyes gets, the choruses are still pretty damn loud. A single tremolo-picked note freezes time, a shrill contrast to the bassy synth tones that flesh out the verse.
One of the highlights of an overall incredible album is ‘Like Father’. With lyrics taken from a letter singer Annie Dorret wrote to her father on a flight, it’s a crushingly blunt confrontation of difficulties in a parent-child relationship and the honest attempts to explain and reconcile them. The opening lines really set the scene:
‘I’m proud of you and hope you’re proud of me too,
I don’t hate your masculinity
Just the parts that might make you ashamed of me’
This conflict of a partially failed relationship presents one of the albums clearest and most compelling narratives, within the context of gender roles, an area the band often delve into (see the ‘Where the Boys Are’ review). The emotional stress is reflected in the particularly heavy instrumentation, some of the most memorable on the record.
My favourite of the record has to be the always indomitable ‘Speak to My’. It’s one of CLT DRP’s earlier tracks, but its rage and swagger feel like the result of years of refinement. There’s no tolerance for other people’s shit; “I don’t fuck with internalised misogyny” makes that pretty damn clear. As an attack on that exact issue, only Deap Vally’s ‘Smile More’ comes close. The whole song is challenging, whether topically or musically. The sounds coming out of that guitar are insane, as crushing and aggressive as the vocal. While this isn’t the only time Annie claims the power dynamic in her relationships throughout the album, this is absolutely the most abrupt and abrasive approach. Again, the swagger and confidence are out of this world, resulting in an overall sound that honestly isn’t pulling any punches musically or lyrically.
‘I Always Liked Your Mother Better’ is the perfect way to round out this masterpiece. With some of the least guitar-like sounds of the album and a sneering, angry vocal, it’s summary and yet still distinctly its own. Lyrically, it’s perhaps the least complex but most thoroughly shoutable track of the whole album.
‘I went to school and I learnt something
They don’t care about you or your mental health’
This song doesn’t so much address mental health and self-loathing as straps them to a sledgehammer and hit you in the ears with them. Call me old fashioned, uncultured, and insensitive, but it’s quite fun. More of a slow mosh, but everyone needs a chance to cool down.
Without the Eyes has got to be one of the best debut albums of recent years. Even if you don’t agree with my enjoyment of their music, CLT DRP has crafted a selection of tracks with a voice that is uniquely their own and tackle popular issues in ways that are often avoided but seems overwhelmingly relevant and needed. That one day the mosh will be epic is only the icing on the already fantastic triple-chocolate, sprinkle-laden, multi-layer cake. All I feel I could realistically ask for is the inclusion of another one of their older tracks, ‘Any Man’, but really the new music ticks every box I was hoping for.
Without the Eyes is of course available to stream now, though if you’re feeling particularly cool and like to support artists more directly, why not pick up a copy from the band’s Bandcamp.