Just a year on after the release of Natural, Everyday Degradation, Remo Drive are back with a brand new offering in the form of third studio album A Portrait of an Ugly Man. The band’s unique brand of storytelling has garnered an impressive fan base from every corner of the world, and now, the Minnesota brother duo has stepped back into the spotlight to provide another dash of escapism from the current uncertain landscape.
The album kicks off with A Guide To Live By – which features an ominous opening, leaving the listener to ponder which direction the band’s latest body of work will head. Shortly after the arrival of Erik Paulson’s sashaying vocals, it is clear that this offering will be a little bolder than anything we have seen from the band – the instrumental of this song is choppy, experimental and almost atmospheric. A Guide To Live By comes together with a funky ending and fulfils its duty of grabbing the listener’s attention – the job description of an opening song executed to a tee.
The skipping, pulsing guitar chords demonstrated in the first song carry on nicely into Star Worship, however, the sauntering riff that is laced throughout this track – and during many different highlights of the album – is a wonderfully refreshing progression on the album’s opener. Both of these songs, from the off, demonstrate parts of the core styles at play on A Portrait of an Ugly Man and really showcase the ever-evolving musical capabilities of the band.
The swagger-riddled riff and Erik Paulson’s crooning vocals that kick off Dead Man have a lasting factor to them, making it an unquestionable highlight of the record. The song sways through its verses with confidence before slipping into its bouncing chorus – one that is reminiscent of the highlights of the band’s 2019 effort Natural, Everyday Degradation. After a few cycles, the song whimpers to a conclusion and displays a glittering, delicate guitar riff that is an evolved version of the one that welcomes listeners to the track.
The shimmering harmonised vocals showcased in If I’ve Ever Looked Too Deep In Thought are, again, balanced wonderfully with a contorting riff. By this point in the album, the framework is clear but there is no evidence of its experimental style becoming repetitive or boring. At its conclusion, this song’s whaling vocals add a completely new, explorative element to a song that breaks up the album nicely. Similarly, the sharp contrast between the instrumentals (particularly the drums) and the vocals in A Flower and a Weed is somewhat jarring and makes you want to listen time and time again.
The Ugly Man Sings, Ode to Joy 2 and The Romance Lives turn on the river once more and really highlight the psychedelia, blues elements at play in the piece. By this point in the album, heavy Desert Rock influences come to the surface and, once again, showcase the diversity in the band’s arsenal. The balance and layers of the instrumentation seen in The Romance Lives alone make A Portrait of an Ugly Man worth a listen.
The Night I Kidnapped Remo Drive is probably the safest outing on the record and feels almost as if it could fit nicely onto the band’s last album – while this is by no means a complaint, it is hard for a pebble to disguise itself among a beach filled with sea glass. This song is a reminder of the band’s core sound but also has licks of their new style, however, is lacking the experimental edge of some of its peers.
In their own right, the large majority of songs on this album feel as though they could be the accompanying soundtrack to the crescendo of a film which is a credit to its diverse and experimental style. Remo Drive honed in on a successful blueprint with Natural, Everyday Degradation based off the spoils of their career up to that point, however, what they have with A Portrait of an Ugly Man is evidence that they aren’t afraid to evolve this style and frankly, the result is excellent. While they may never be able to shake the ‘this isn’t like Greatest Hits‘ mantra, after hearing this album many fans should be excited to see what the band have up their sleeves for their next effort.
Listen to Remo Drive’s A Portrait of an Ugly Man, set to release June 26th 2020: