sun 09/08/2020

CD: The Drums - Brutalism | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Drums - Brutalism

CD: The Drums - Brutalism

Fifth album from US alt-pop act is lyrically strong but musically less so

Jonny Pierce acts out the lyrics to Brutalisms's title track

The Drums appeared a decade ago out of New York, riding a media froth about indie music to critical acclaim and, at least for their debut album, some degree of commercial success. They were a four-piece who owed a large debt to New Order but had enough of their own pizzazz to look promising. Ten years and four albums later (meaning this is their fifth), The Drums are a one man band and don’t sound anything like New Order. This isn’t necessarily always an improvement.

For a couple of years The Drums have been the solo project of frontman Jonny Pierce. According to the press release, Brutalism reflects a time of transformation and soul-searching following divorce, self-sabotage and “partying” amid LA’s urban sprawl. And, indeed, Pierce has a way with a lyric. Take “Body Chemistry”, for instance: “Maybe I’m depressed or maybe I know too much about the world, about myself / I need some good luck and a good fuck, a nice glass of wine and some quality time (to make you mine)”.

Throughout he emphasises his fragility, his broken heart. On the title track he cuddles up to (we presume) his ex-wife’s tee-shirt alone late at night in front of the TV (as on the cover), slow-plucked guitar ballad “Nervous” is an effective portrayal of a broken couple awkwardly trying to communicate, while the hazy, sea-washed “I Wanna Go Back” aches with longing for the past.

However, despite the deft lyrical honesty, the music is less convincing, a flimsy indie-tinted electro-pop which Pierce’s pleading voice often renders less likeable. There are moments when everything comes together, such as the aforementioned “I Wanna Go Back” and, particularly, the jangle-rockin’ “Loner”. The latter is the album’s best song, rather brilliantly featuring what appears to be a children’s choir. It radiates a much-needed dynamism, balancing Pierce’s sense of loss with ebullient new wave pop. More like that and this album would have been a real contender.

Below: Listen to "Body Chemistry" by The Drums

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