by Ziggy Merritt
Whatever you might have to say, naming your band Drugdealer is simple if an ingenious way to command attention, but it also requires some follow-through on behalf of the artist to know that the cheekiness of the effort is not just paper thin.
Previously releasing music under, the on-the-nose if slightly problematic, monikers of Salvia Plath and Run DMT, LA artist Michael Collins’ second album as Drugdealer, Raw Honey, is a focused effort to reawaken the soul of classic rock in 2019…whatever that might entail.
With a bevy of guest contributors and the touch of yacht rock’s 21st-century boy, Mac DeMarco at the helm of the production, Collins latest is largely a success in the revival of late 60s-early 70s psych rock that doesn’t fall into the pit of pastiche.
The partial namesake “Honey” is half of the album’s heart and an early introduction into what brands this album as a success. Here, Natalie Merring of Weyes Blood (a friend and frequent contributor on Collins’ work), provides guest vocals that deepen the immersion into the folksy charms Raw Honey is all too happy to spoon-feed to you.
Like anything else on the record, the vibe falls somewhere between a solo Beatles effort (think Lennon over Harrison) and something that Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, and Nash might compose on a bright sunny afternoon. Merring lends “Honey” a certain amount of authenticity with a smooth, crooning delivery that floats on top of the tripped-out twang of early-70s psych rock strumming.
The other half of the heart is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the second lead single from the album, “Fools.” Collins doesn’t drop in the touch of any other voice here. Everything on “Fools” fits together in a neat, thoughtful pattern. From the opening salvo of groovy saxophone, the underline of the bass, and Collins’ own turn at lead vocals, there’s real magic afloat. It’s the most evidently yacht rock-like composition, and the one most likely to get stuck in your head for days on end. Exactly what you want in a pop single.
As much as it is an enjoyable throwback, there are times Raw Honey lacks a solid inspired throughline. “Lonely” at its worst is repetitive (“Hey there lonely, you don’t have to be so lonely” repeated ad nauseum with little meaningful variation). At its best, it’s a perfectly okay inclusion where Collins’ debuts an odd tenor to his voice that curiously sounds very much like he took a few vocal lessons from Ringo Starr.
“If You Don’t Know Now, You Never Will” suffers from similar criticism with an equally curious tendency to take cues from the quieter half of the seminal Beatles anthem “Hey Jude.” Still, Collins’ is fully able any of these labeled critiques to push forward on his vision.
Raw Honey is out now via Mexican Summer. Drugdealer will be embarking on a late Spring/early Summer tour in support of the album starting in May, making their eventual stop in Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s on July 17th. Get tickets here.