The Drowning Men, I was told, were a band to catch next time they played in town. So I did, at Bar Pink, I believe, and here’s what I witnessed: cheery music, bleak lyrics. “I hear your mother’s a whore,” sang Nato Bardeen. “I hear your father’s a bore/ This is how I see it,” or words to that effect. At times the music rang like the rough-hewn folk of Pete Seeger with My Morning Jacket as backup. Other times, the Drowning Men lined up on the side of ’80s New Wave more than indie rock, but they did pound the crap out of their instruments. This may be what Flogging Molly saw in them — a strong dose of their own devil’s dance floor energy. FM took them out on their Green 17 tour earlier this year and then signed the Oceanside-based band to their Borstal Beat record label with plans to reissue previously self-released The Beheading of the Songbird this month.
Some reviewers see longshoremen in the roughness of the Drowning Men’s image. I see skater types working hard to remain unencumbered by the Modest Mouse gloom present in even their liveliest of songs (consider that it was Pall Jenkins of San Diego’s Black Heart Procession who produced Songbird).
The founding core of the Drowning Men — Nathan Bardeen, Rory Dolan, and James Smith — met in grade school in Oceanside. They had a long history of garage jamming. Before DM came together, Bardeen played in the Plug Uglies. When that band imploded, he went looking for his childhood bandmates to start something new. It was the right time for the melding of their Tom Waits–Nick Cave influences, but according to their publicity they see themselves as something more. “We like to position ourselves as your last bit of hope,” says Bardeen. That’s a bit much to ask.
A Scribe Amidst the Lions and the Tall Ships also perform.
DROWNING MEN: Soda Bar, Saturday, October 22, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8, $10.