Post-punk is a label thrown around quite a lot these days, isn’t it? Angular guitars? Check. Simplistic basslines? Gotcha. Steady and unfussy drumming? Of course. “Surrealist” lyrics about pretty much nothing and certainly not in any way surrealist as people often misunderstand the term? You bet. There seems to be an ever-expanding surfeit of new bands using this label who do little to tantalise the listener. There are ways to convey post-punk stylistic sensibilities which are mildly derivative, and there is a way to make note of what has gone before whilst also pushing the sub-genre into new(ish) territory. Drahla’s sound includes all of these aspects, but they also add a cool sense of aloofness which evades many of their supposed contemporaries. There is an undoubted artsy feel to Useless Coordinates, but there is also a sense of joy, of connection and liberation as they knowingly use what has gone before (Wire are an obvious influence) whilst adding something distinctive enough to stand out from the crowd.

‘Gilded Cloud’ opens proceedings and it is a tense way to kick things off. The track begins with a hesitant bassline being played over intermittent military style drumming and a clanging, scratchy guitar which scrapes and scrawls until, over a minute later, there is a burst of life and a clearer direction for the song emerges. This is a brave way to start a debut album as the introduction is deliberately pensive, almost arrogant in a positive way, and certainly self-assured. Jagged guitars and a stop-start arrangement, topped with Luciel Brown’s cool vocal drawl, add a sense of jarring immediacy after the tempered opening. ‘Gilded Cloud’ doesn’t burst into life after the opening – that would be too obvious – it morphs into being and sits comfortably self-aware and propulsive thereafter. It’s a great opener.

‘Serenity’ and ‘Pyramid Estate’ follow and they are straightforward rock’n’roll bawlers right out of the top drawer. Both have an air of panic about them, as if the pace of the song is self-established and the musicians have to keep up with it. ‘Serenity’ introduces the saxophone as a viable artrock/post-punk noise once again and the instrument (which is one of my least favourites due to my recurring Kenny G nightmares) stretches the band into elemental areas of jazz which, thankfully, are reined in somewhat. Chris Duffin of XAM Duo plays sax on the album and his restrained work will surely draw comparisons to James Chance and the Contortions. On ‘React/Revolt’ he is allowed a little more room to explore the parameters of the brass bastard and he does so to good effect; never does it outstay its welcome even for naysayers such as me. This song, in fact, pinpoints why Drahla are such an exciting band as they place a contemplative, challenging song slap bang in the middle of some absolute bangers, and this bravery really pays off in terms of the pacing of the album as a whole. This shows their confidence and demonstrates that they are playing by their own rules. They want to provoke audience expectations, not pander to them. ‘React/Revolt’ is wonderful and it is at this point of the album where you start to believe this is a band worth falling in love with.

The album’s strongest track is ‘Stimulus for Living’ which wraps up all of the anomie of the album into one tightly wound three-minute belter. There are plenty of musical reference points on this track but there is also a sense of a spritely freshness which belies its existence within the boundaries of a well-worn musical style. There is a Young Marble Giants quality to this track, but the intrusive, almost rude, squealing guitar line in the introduction draws from the more feral end of the grunge spectrum, bands like The Jesus Lizard. Of course, many will no doubt make a lot of Drahla’s likeness to Sonic Youth but this is a lazy comparison as it is only really evident in the manner in which Drahla’s singer Luciel Brown intones her lyrics in a Kim Gordon-esque manner. There are similarities, but Brown’s voice is more like Factory Floor’s Nik Colk Void in its delivery – aloof and sensual whilst also being devoid of an emotional core (this is a good thing, by the way).

‘Invisible Sex’, the album’s last track, sounds like prime-era Pavement with its skewed and discordant guitars wreaking havoc, underneath lyrics that declare a need to “Elevate my DNA” as they focus on the social conditioning and undermining of female roles in society. Presumably, the title is a nod to the paleo-anthropological work of Adovasio, Soffer and Page whose work looked to challenge the ideas that women in prehistoric times took on secondary roles, a longstanding argument for the normalisation of gender roles in contemporary times. The lyrics are often obscured in the mix of this song by the instruments and so much like paleo-anthropologists, the listener needs to dig deep to uncover the meaning of the song.

Drahla produce music which is oxymoronic in nature – it is both urgent and aloof, sensual and distant, laidback and tense. Useless Coordinates is not perfect, and there are some flat moments, such as ‘Unwound’ which is very artrock-by-numbers, but overall this is an album which kicks arse and promises much for the future from a band clearly enamoured with the idea of challenging themselves and their audience.