Album Review: The New Tusk – The Big Drag

The New Tusk release a ferocious-yet-touching debut album as testament to their legacy, having sadly called time on the band.

With singles Tarmac and Bottle Caps released earlier this year, the Brighton 3-piece had set a precedent for short, garage rock bangers – adapting upon a sound founded on the compilation album ‘Sloom’ released 2016. Released on drummer Nick Wells’ Hanger Records, it’s much more of the same for the opening moments of The Big Drag, as it erupts into life with Max Cleworth’s aggressive vocals on opener ‘Messy Household’, followed by ‘Bluer’ reminiscent of The Cribs.

After perhaps over-predictably sticking to their guns at first glance, a more mature perception of the band is conveyed as the album progresses. Bassist Seb Gilmore and drummer Wells provide a core of stop-start syncopated rhythm on the likes of ‘Scalps For Fun’ and ‘Coolhunter’, highlighting Cleworth’s harsh guitar and gritty vocals with emphatic effect. This thwarts the initial perception of a band overtly adhering to previous works by displaying a new level of dynamic conceivably lacking on the straight-up-riff-based Sloom. Tracks such as ‘Three Clocks’ and ‘& Stuff’ also show a softness unfamiliar with The New Tusk, which expertly highlight the foreshadowing nature of their demise. Songs like these poignantly build upon a feeling of home comfort consistent of The Big Drag, which is portrayed further from the footage of Brighton in the homemade video for ‘Bottle Caps; the standout track of the album in my opinion. The nonstop vocal melody acts as an earworm, similar to vintage New Tusk with the likes of ‘Under Something’, although differentiates itself instrumentally with shifts in dynamic throughout to further display a progression and maturity of the band’s sound.

The album continues in a neo-vintage reign on form as the hard-punching Marked Men-esque garage sound hits home (namely) on the likes of ‘Bowling’ and ‘Most Part’, before the sludgy sounding ‘Muratti Vase’ brings the band’s time to an emotional end.

Despite their relatively short-lived tenure, The New Tusk are heralded as early players in the Brighton garage/grunge scene, which has been fostered by the likes of Gender Roles, Broadbay and Bad Nerves in more recent times. Understanding the band’s heritage status, coupled with the knowledge that the album itself is a solid garage rock endeavour, means I strongly encourage you to pick up a limited cassette of The Big Drag; or at least stream the hell out of it if you don’t have a car from the 1990’s. Furthermore, all proceeds generated go to The Clock Tower Sanctuary in Brighton, if my initial two points weren’t persuasive enough.

Au Revoir, The New Tusk.