Review Summary: "music’s no fun when it’s too careful"
What I like about indie music is its general indifference – I think it’s supposed to be fun and simple and it’s not supposed to care about anything much, so you can listen to it and let the songs make you feel happy or sad or whatever else – that’s if they’re quality songs anyway. But I think indie music tries too hard now; it’s fallen into this paradox where all these bands have begun putting a lot of care into not caring, wearing carefully dirtied jackets and having messy but very obviously styled hair, and some of the time they force a kind of slurred, aimless way of talking that isn’t great. The Drums aren’t quite guilty of all that. After paying a bit of attention to them I get the feeling that they’re actually heading towards the opposite end of the spectrum, in that they’re trying to make it seem like they put more effort into their music than they actually do.
Their lead singer, Jonathan Pierce has claimed that the band finds importance in “melody, sincerity and truthfulness”, but the album’s opening track Best Friend is about the fictional death of fellow band-mate Jacob Pierce : “You’re my best friend/ but then you died/ when I was 23 and you were 25”. And then there’s Let’s Go Surfing: “Oh, mama/ I wanna go surfing/ Oh, mama/ I don't care about nothing”. Especially since the band are admittedly not surfers, to me those lyrics pretty much encompass the kind of “who the hell cares” attitude I like in my indie music, and for the first half of the album at least that quirkiness keeps up the pace, from Best Friend to Forever and Ever Amen, and the melody is definitely there.
So the album holds some charm, even if that charm contradicts the way the band have talked about their music, and throughout its first half it carries a nice flow; the songs are up-tempo and catchy and they have subtle additions like the high-pitched backing vocals in Forever and Ever Amen’s pre-chorus and the flute sound in Book of Stories, and I think subtleties like that can do a lot of make a song. But I keep mentioning the “first half”, and that’s because from Down by the Water onwards things aren’t as good; the songs drop in tempo and there’s a little more melancholy there, plus the songs just appear to dip in quality – the rhythm of each track is quite similar, so that starts to grind a bit too. So it seems like it could be two EPs stuck back-to-back, but maybe if they’d mixed the track list around differently it would have been more passable.
I’ve heard a few people complain about The Drums because “they seem false” or because “they’re just trying to be The Smiths”, but what has made the most sense to me was someone saying “I like ‘em. Bit of summer fun”. And this album plays up to that, and under that context it’s decent, but it could have been better if it’s second half didn’t bring it down, both in summer cheeriness and general quality. As a result of this there’s a chance the album will just fade into obscurity with there being a lot of summertime music to choose from, but going back to what I said nearer the start, I believe the The Drums have some charisma hidden in their attitude towards what they do, so it wouldn’t be a waste of time to give this album a listen, but also to keep an eye on them to see if they can put some clever indifference back into indie music, because music’s no fun when it’s too careful.