Bic Runga’s debut album was released at the age of 21 – she’d previously attracted attention with her Drive EP in 1995, and the version of ‘Drive’ on this album comes from a 1996 demo that won her a recording contract with Sony.
Drive was released when I was in my late teens, and at the time I had little use for the ubiquitous songs from the album, like ‘Sway’ and ‘Suddenly Strange’ – they lope along with stripped back arrangements, a low key rhythm section and prominent lead guitar. Even now I find them monotonous, while Runga’s melodies and vocals are pretty, the songs feel caught in limbo; with Runga’s mannered vocals they feel too slick to communicate emotion, but not dynamic enough to be interesting.
Coming back to Drive with less testosterone, there’s an admirable writer here – the ethereal melodies of ‘Sway’ and ‘Drive’ are pretty, and even though the most memorable songs are clustered near the front, it’s not an insubstantial record. But it’s difficult to get past the monotonous sound of Drive, and Runga would become more interesting with subsequent releases.