★★★★½

After making the Drones album to end all Drones albums – 2013’s masterworkI See Seaweed– Australia’s best live export has decided to radically alter its approach, producing eight slabs of warped cyberpunk.

This new direction is best heard in the guitar treatment. Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe, perhaps bored with blues guitar, went all Mengele on their instruments and came up with a sound that’s ill and infected. The flawless first half includes the national anti-anthem ‘Taman Shud’ and the bitter, heart-rending ballad ‘To Think That I Once Loved You’. Album opener ‘Private Execution’ showcases all of the band’s new tricks, with heavy doses of synth paranoia while Liddiard provides a laundry list of reasons for losing hope, and ‘Then They Came For Me’ likens the current immigration/refugee situation to Nazi propaganda.

The record’s second half is even weirder in a host of subtle ways. ‘Tailwind’ and ‘Sometimes’ halve the tempo and triple the tension, while ‘Boredom’ makes good on the band’s pre-release murmuring that it’s a “bad trip you can dance to”. ‘Shutdown SETI’ features Liddiard’s best ever anti-melody and one of his best lyrics (“High-tech don’t mean higher moral standing / That’s kinda racist”), before finishing the album by declaring humanity worthless over a symphony of guitars that would make Kevin Shields proud.

Feelin’ Kinda Free doesn’t sound like any other band. It doesn’t even really sound like The Drones.

Feelin’ Kinda Free byThe Dronesis out now through Tropical Fuck Storm/MGM.

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