Album of the Week 20-2012: Drive Like Maria – Drive Like Maria

Everything seems to go the other way around for Drive Like Maria. They did an American tour before they toured their home countries Holland and Belgium and now there is a self-titled second album. No problem of course; Drive Like Maria is the finest musical treasure both countries have to offer and that hasn’t changed three years after their impressive debut ‘Elmwood’. In fact, ‘Drive Like Maria’ surppasses that album in every way. There is more variation, the songs are more streamlined, but the band hasn’t sacrificed an inch of their unique appeal in order to do so.

For those unfamiliar with the music of the power trio gone quartet, the closest reference would probably be Queens Of The Stone Age. Drive Like Maria is just a bit more poppy and Bjorn Awouters is light years ahead of Josh Homme as a singer. The seventies Rock meets Stoner sound is there and Drive Like Maria doesn’t fear the wild eclecticism that QotSA likes to dwell on.

Less than a minute into opening track ‘The Dog Died Rough’, I knew these were 15 euros well spent. The powerful Rock riffs pound delightfully through the speakers and when the chorus starts, the band’s keen ear for catchy melodies is evident immediately. There’s a build-up in tension within the song which makes it a pleasure to listen to every time. This song and ‘Ghostrider’ are probably closest to ‘Elmwood’ in sound, but the dynamics just seem to work even better this time.

The band excels in many ways on ‘Drive Like Maria’. There’s brilliant poppy Rock numbers like ‘Where The Broken Hearted Go’ and ‘Howl’, there’s a hint of Americana in ‘Woke Up Hard’ and ‘On The Road’ is a beautiful touring band ballad to equal Bob Seger’s brilliant ‘Turn The Page’. But two songs really stand out for me. First of all, there’s the dark desert Blues Rock that is ‘Black Horses’, with “new kid” Bram van den Berg – possibly Holland’s best Pop/Rock drummer who took over the drum sticks from Awouters so he could fully focus on vocals and guitar – shuffling away as if his life depends on it. The brooding verses with Awouters and fellow guitarist Nitzan Hoffmann doubling lead vocals lead to climaxes that are downright awesome and when the explosion comes in the shape of the song’s heaviest part, accentuated by bassist Robin van Saaze’s vocals, it’s just beyond anything else. This song needs to be heard to be believed.

Closing the album is the very sparse ‘Bury My Heart In The Desert’. This is spine chilling material, opening with just Awouters’ amazingly passionate vocals, only to be backed by an emotional Wurlitzer part and a heartbreaking guitar solo later in the song. It’s clearly the same band as on ‘Elmwood’, just a side that wasn’t exposed as beautifully as on this song.

Anyone who likes good Rock music or even a well-written song should give these guys a chance. It’s hard not to be caught by these guys’ (and girl’s) catchy melodies, hooky choruses and infectious atmosphere. You shouldn’t want to either. Being sucked into music that is so pure and powerful is a delight. It’s been three years since ‘Elmwood’, but it was well worth the wait. I for one think that everyone needs to hear this band. You’d be doing yourself a huge favor.

Recommended tracks: ‘Black Horses’, ‘Bury My Heart In The Desert’, ‘The Dog Died Rough’

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