How important is a band’s moniker? Intuitively, I would not say it’s that important, but how many of the bands that hit it big have bad band names? Would as many drunk people call out for Slayer if they had a weird, 7 syllable alias? What if Iron Maiden had convened around Harris’ old band called Smiler? Even less unanimously praised acts like Nightwish have become hugely successful and influential, on the back of a memorable and evocative name. On the flipside, I’ve seen some unfortunate band names through the years as well. But I’ve yet to see one so proudly self-diagnose Gonorrhea as Gothenburg band The Drippers, following the template of The Plurals so richly mocked in Sum 41‘s “Still Waiting” video. But do they bring the fire or does Action Rock feel like a burning sensation when you pee?
Well, that will largely depend on your tolerance for blistering garage rock, raw punk distortion and Mötorhead overdriven heavy metal ‘n roll attitude. The Drippers wear their main influence on their sleeves, down to the naming convention and cover: The Hellacopters’ debut album Supershitty to the Max!. Even the pepe-on-crack cartoon frog from that album takes center stage on Action Rock’s brightly colored art. The music is largely a modern update of the same style. Nitrous pacing, deliberately staticky shouts for vocals, fuzz-laden riffs with garage punk lo-fi energy and a tendency to veer off the road with energetic soloing, Mötorhead style (the wild riffs in the “Bottled Blues” chorus even have strong resemblance to “Ace of Spades”). The rhythms take a cue from rock ‘n roll, but dialed up to 11, making for an album with colossal energy and an infectious disregard for the speed limit.
So it’s somewhat of a derivative album, but with the often double-tracked vocals and absence of embellishments like keyboards, The Drippers get to the heart of what makes this sound work, possibly even more than the album that inspired them. Action Rock is like a tornado hitting a diesel station: a whirling explosion filled with fire and smoke that’s over in a spectacular flash, with 11 tracks clocking in at a skinny 28 minutes. Where speed and energy are the objective, letting the gas up even a tad becomes a dangerous game, and although “Ready to Fall” would be considered a fast and energetic track on any other album, it’s both the slowest and least fun track here. It makes a case for simply keeping the pedal to the metal, and the band is happy to oblige.
The production is another area where these guys show they know what they’re doing. Sure, it’s not a very dynamic, high fidelity master. But it’s not supposed to be. This is loud, fast and dirty music, so it deserves a loud and dirty production. The guitars are a tad trebly, both in the riffs as well as the solos, giving them a ragged edge. The bass adds a nice layer of filth underneath, and the vocals have a lo-fi crackle and pop as if they’re delivered louder than the equipment can handle. All this just elevates that grimy garage feel that makes the record that much more explosive, without going overboard and making it unlistenable.
The Drippers have a simple objective: rocking as hard, fast and noisy as they can. Action Rock succeeds on all counts, even as it comes off as derivative. It gets everything right, from the zany artwork to the garage production, from the ADD guitars that never seem to know whether they’re riffing or soloing, to the dirty twang of the inexhaustible bass. While The Hellacopters moved on to clean-cut radio friendly rock, these guys have stolen their choppers in a high speed police chase while shotgunning beers and tossing the cans on the cop car hood. It’s blisteringly fast, it’s fun as hell, and it’s executed with glorious amounts of punk attitude. What more could you wish for?