Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Drums: Portamento

The Drums
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

It has been barely over a year since the self-titled debut from Brooklyn band The Drums dropped on an unsuspecting public. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, The Drums stood out from a crowded pack of 80s referencing bands, mixing equal parts surf rock, Factory Records post-punk, and 50s harmonies. It was an exhilarating debut because you had no idea what the band were going to do next. As a whole, there were a lot of hits and misses on the record, but that fearlessness to do whatever they wanted was part of the record's charm. After touring relentlessly and testing new material on the road, The Drums now release their sophomore album Portamento, and the most noticeable difference between the two records is the very clean, measured production on the album. The dreaded word "mature" also pops up, as the songs seem to hold a lot more weight than the tracks on their debut. It is not a gloomy record, but there does appear to be a distinct air of sadness surrounding these songs. Even the perky first single "Money," while being one of the catchiest songs in recent memory, lyrically is seemingly about a slightly abusive romance.

The album flows into and out of this song, which appears to be the magnet at the center of this beautiful, yet flawed record. When listening to the record, I find myself waiting for this song to play, and after I find myself wanting to go back to it. It's frustrating, because this is not a bad record at all, it just doesn't sound like The Drums I fell in love with last year. Where I want the go for broke spontaneity of the debut, I get a very measured, thoughtful album that always seems on the edge of going where I want it, but doesn't head off anywhere unexpected. Aside from the highlight of "Money," there were several tracks that always grabbed my attention. The poppy and bouncy "I Need A Doctor" which sounds like a long-lost Haircut 100 outtake,

10-the drums-i need a doctor by PeaceBlind

"What You Were" which wraps saxophone around chiming guitars and washes of keyboards,

The drums - What You Were by Zombielazer

and the dark, brooding "If He Likes It Let Him Do It."

09-the drums-if he likes it let him do it by PeaceBlind

The album is rife with lovers leaving one another, striking or hitting on another, or generally in the throes of some relationship drama, which in the right circumstances can make for powerful music, but for some reason the seriousness of these topics just seems incongruous to The Drums' general aesthetic. Though I did enjoy the dreamy, haunting "In The Cold," with its spiky guitar and haunting drones,

11-the drums-in the cold by PeaceBlind

and the sharp, new wave inspired rush of "I Don't Know How To Love You."

The Drums - Portamento by PeaceBlind

But for long stretches of the album, many of the tracks blur into one another, keeping almost a monochromatic hue. The first three tracks especially leave almost no impression on me whatsoever, except for the interesting cut-up vocal effect on "Book of Revelations."

The Drums - Portamento by PeaceBlind

"Days" never really gets over its rather torpid beat and muted vocal take from Jonathan Pierce, and "What You Were" recalls the beats and mood of the debut but fails to add anything new to the mix. While "Searching For Heaven," which adds The Drums' take on Vangelis and Wendy Carlos' Moog synth excursions, is an interesting departure, however, the vocals are so distractingly atonal it detracts from what could have been a focal point of the record.

The Drums - Portamento by PeaceBlind

Portamento is the sound of a band caught in the middle between retaining their distinctive sound and wanting to stretch that sound and coming up with really neither of the two. The hesitancy over the course of 12 tracks gets wearying, as you just want something as raucous as "Let's Go Surfing," as driving as "Me And The Moon," or as experimentally referential as 'Down By The Water." Instead of finding those diamonds in the rough, you get an almost overly meticulous cycle of tracks that becomes not so much a step back for The Drums, but mainly a holding pattern. There are enough memorable songs on Portamento to make it worth recommending, however, those stellar tracks just serve to show what this record could have been.

Rating Guide

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.