The Drums - The Drums - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Drums - The Drums

by Al Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2010-06-07

At the turn of the year The Drums were getting alot of hype, and it's easy to see why. The Drums are an NME editor's wet dream: a sweet mixture of post-punk minimalism with hummable melodies and 80s production values. Basically, they tick all the boxes for 2010, though they could just as easily have existed in 1982.

Things kick off with 'Best Friend', in which the jauntiness of the music - all bouncy rhythm and chiming hi-life guitar - seems to actively mock singer Jonathan Pierce's serious subject matter. Or maybe it's because he reels off lines like "You were my best friend/ And then you died/ When I was 23 and you were 25" with studied cool, rather than emotional wailing. It's a nice song even if it feels a bit light on ideas. The first thing I noticed about 'Me and the Moon' was how ridiculously 80s the drum sound is: high in the mix and with a clinical precision that suggests a drum machine. To me, production techniques like this and the reverb on the vocals give the song a sterile, overproduced feel. As a counterpoint: if the track was more interesting it would probably transcend such nitpicking.

One song they definitely got right is 'Lets Go Surfing'. Their first single remains a high-watermark with its super-minimal surf-guitar, breathy backing vocals and whistled riff. The chorus refrain of "Mama, I wanna go surfing/ Mama, I don't care about nothing" is a perfect distillation of the teenage mindset too - constantly veering between pleasure seeking and witless nihilism. The following two songs maintain a high standard: 'Book of Stories' is more intimate than anything that has come before, with more emotive, less effect-laden vocals and 'Skippin' Town' is very similar to 'Lets Go Surfing', minimal with simple but evocative lyrics. Their latest single 'Forever and Ever Amen' is pretty too, even if it does lift M83's eighties shtick wholesale (those synth sounds especially).

'Down By the Water' is the most obvious nod to their professed love of The Shangri-Las, a straight ahead romantic slow-dance with the refrain: "If you fall asleep down by the water/ Baby I'll carry you all the way home". It's a real treat, ebbing and flowing like the waves with a synth bassline which sounds unexpectedly great when it comes in halfway through each verse. Towards the end of the album, tracks tend to stick to a sort of M83/The Cure song template, and occasionally you wish they would engage in a little more experimentation music-wise, or more expansive lyrics. Their devotion to a small palette of sounds and lyrical themes is, from another angle, fairly impressive in a stubborn sort of way. There's a quote on their website which explains it better than I could:

"We only write about two feelings: one is the first day of summer when you and all of your friends are standing on the edge of a cliff watching the sun set and being overcome with all of your hopes and dreams at once. The other is when you're walking alone in the rain and realize you will be alone forever."

I think The Drums are a more optimistic band than they'd like to admit; at their best they conjure up a sense of love and happiness better than most of their peers, and their washed-out dream pop is perfectly suited for that purpose. They present a hotchpotch of ideas cribbed from 60s girl groups, 80s pop and indie and a few points in between; with all these influences it's a pleasant surprise the result is something so minimal and precise, rather than cluttered and directionless.

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