The Drums | The Drums
Most Likely To: remake and remodel The Cure, 2010-style.
The Drums have a few surprises ready for anyone who is willing to listen. First, they’re not British. They’re currently based, like nine out of ten other indie rockers, in Brooklyn, New York. Second, their name doesn’t quite fit their sound. Given their choice of moniker, one might expect rhythm to be critical to the band’s metier, à la !!! or even LCD Soundsystem. A more apt name would be The Synths. To further the confusion, the band claims they organized their sound around guitars, and indeed two members play guitar, yet synthy sounds dominate The Drums, the band’s eponymous debut.
Anticipation for The Drums has been great thanks to a string of singles and the EP that the quartet released over the last two years. However, traces of another 7”, “Apart” from synth-poppers Elkland, runs through The Drums, which is not too surprising since half of the Drums used to be in Elkland (singer Jonathan Pierce fronted the quartet, while Adam Kessler played guitar). The fourseome’s most successful songs drip with ‘1980s New Wave tropes: “ee-oh” vox, taut melodic guitar, finger snaps, and melodic major chord swells.
There are times, however, like on “Forever and Amen” when Pierce stretches out the phrase “Into the sky-eee-eye-eee-eye-ee-eyeeee!” while being backed with open chord synths, that the Drums sound schlocky and dated. At these moments they go “off message” and end up resembling also rans, such as Alphaville or A Flock of Seagulls, rather than offering a fresh approach based on culling classic elements from more enduring bands.
But the most unsettling thing about The Drums is just how much Pierce sounds like Robert Smith. Have you ever wondered what “Just Like Heaven” would sound like if Smith recorded it today? Check out “Book of Stories” for the answer. The Drums included their first single, “Let’s Go Surfing,” which takes “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” and adds a bubble gum-pop chorus: “Sweet, sweet baby / I’ll never let you go.” Both tracks will easily bob and weave their way into a lot of playlists, but much like Surfer Blood, with whom The Drums will soon be on tour, The Drums aim to cash in on ‘80s nostalgia, borrowed or otherwise. Unfortunately, it makes their music feel a little bit false.
The Drums don’t just borrow liberally from The Cure; elements of The Smiths (“Best Friend,” “I Need Fun in My Life”) and New Order (“Skippin’ Town,” “The Future”) also surface frequently. It’s true that they rearrange these Brit-pop parts into something that pleases the ear, yet The Drums never moves beyond the scope of its influences. But because fans of the aforementioned legendary acts tend to both loyal and rabid, I suspect The Drums will always find favor with listeners who are ready to hear some of their beloved sounds again, in a slightly different manner.
Watch the video for “Best Friend” by The Drums: