Album Review: The Drums – Portamento
The new Drums album is named after a 17th Century Italian word meaning a slide between two vocal pitches, an apt name for an album, which also slides from one mood to another. The first album, Summertime!, is a release the band describe as a concept album, that while visceral and fun, lacked depth. This time around they have focused inwards, taking time to reflect and make a more personal LP that tackles issues such as religion, heartbreak and….trans-genderism. These issues certainly hold more weight than songs about going surfing.
There is also the addition of synthesizers giving their sound more depth and atmosphere and a development beyond three chord structures. Something, which has stayed, the same though, is Jonathan Pierces ability to come up with a catchy chorus, so vital in a pop song, and something, which The Drums do really well. He does this memorably in ‘Money’.
Despite lyrically tackling more serious issues, the songs are still treated with the same lightness of touch which even allows songs about heartbreak to be an uplifting experience – although I would not expect too much philosophical insight into religion as lead singer Jonathan Pierce reflects in ‘Book of Revelation’: “I’ve seen the world, there is no Heaven, there is no Hell/ I believe that when we die, we die. So let me love you tonight.”
Even lyrics relating to death, of which there are a few, are characteristically twee and “nice” – a word repeated regularly which leaves me with the urge to listen to some Swedish death metal in order to counteract the persistent chirpiness of the album.
They have struck a tone of bittersweet nonchalance, which they stick to throughout, leaving little room for texture and shade. This is not Shoegaze, more navalgaze. Their sound could never be described as ‘scuzzy’ so long as there are, Phil Spector-like guitars and bass pushing things along keeping it clean and light. This makes them distinctive, and if they were to lose their signature ‘Beach Pop’ sound I wonder what would be left to like.
Release Date 05/09/2011 (Universal/Island)