Words by Yanni Markovina.
There are times in every person’s life when one feels emotional. When the pressures of the world and those around us weigh us down in ways in which that make us yearn for a voice of understanding that knows what we are going through. Sometimes, that voice can come in the form of music, and with Drag It Down On You, the Melbourne four-piece Ceres (pronounced like ‘series’) have produced one of the most thoughtfully and excitingly executed musical tributes to heartbreak, angst, and the pleasures of enjoying the good times, in recent memory.
Drag It Down On You follows in the tradition of albums that are fuelled with a burning desire to exorcise personal demons in a frank and self-depreciating manner, through the utilisation of biting lyricism mixed with rugged garage-rock and a whole load of pop melodies. Weezer achieved this to excellent effect on 1996’s Pinkerton, and Cloud Nothings have proved over the past few years that they are masters of this craft as well. Ceres prove to be worthy to be mentioned amongst these greats with Drag It Down On You, which is endlessly engaging and fervently relatable.
The fact that Drag It Down On You contains a plethora of great songs is one thing, but that it also contains some of the finest and most heart-rendering examples of fuzzy alternative rock in recent years is a true achievement. Laundry Echo oozes exuberant charm with clear edge, while Talking is the kind of classic pop/rock track that everybody needs in their life. And then there is Happy In Your Head, a shining tribute to reflective melancholia and bittersweet love, wrapped up in a Pavement-inspired pop song with a simple-yet-effective guitar riff and a plaintive vocal.
Much of the refreshing joy that can be found in this album lies in its unapologetic nature. Whether it be the couple of brief yet brilliant songs like Us, Okay, and Loner Blood, that seem to stop just because they feel like it, or such powerhouses like Roll Your Eyes, in which vocalist Tom Lanyon matter-of-factly declares “love is such a fucked word” in his gleeful Australian accent. ’91 Your House in particular is a track that hits very deeply. With a chorus that features such immediately attention-grabbing lines as “They put you in the ground but the dirt don’t deserve you” and “I’m such a piece of shit, it’s OK, come on let’s all admit it”, it is hard not to get invested in the song’s intensely personal and cathartic nature. And as the album concludes with the raging Baby’s Breath, Lanyon’s vocals reach such an emotional and physical intensity that they seemingly begin to destroy the recording microphone itself.
Detractors of an album such as Drag It Down On You might be quick to dismiss Ceres of recycling musical clichés of the nineties alt-rock scene and indulging in emo lyrical righteousness. However, this is far from the case, as Ceres exercise carefree song structure when formulating their songs, meaning that they rarely ever register as being overly oppressive or boring to listen to. For instance, there is a subtle genius to a song like Nothing On Your Shoulders, which at first glance seems like to the overly typical 3-chord lighter-raising epic that one might expect to go on for seven minutes and feature a massive solo and a big instrumental climax. However, the song plays with your expectations as it is in fact a little over three minutes long, never breaks out, and instead chooses to focus on its lyrically emotional core of commitment and respect without resorting to preaching earnestness. This, is the difference between brilliance and mediocrity.
The great display of flowers that adorn the cover of Drag It Down On You are known as Nerium oleander, and they are rather emblematic of what the album is all about. At first glance they are undeniably beautiful, with their pinkish-red flowers and blooming disposition, but they are in fact highly toxic and poisonous. The world of Ceres can be likened to these Nerium oleander flowers, devastatingly playful and serious, both at the same time. Drag It Down On You is an album that cannot be recommended enough. Not only can it be enjoyed in a casual fashion as excellent good-time rock with catchy melodies, but it can also be appreciated as an honest and heartfelt ode to the bittersweet realisations of love, loneliness and death. A nostalgic delight, that sounds as relevant as ever.