The Drums - “Brutalism” Album Review

Story posted April 14, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Matthew Dunn

Nobody wants to be pigeon held. Take Hot Flash Heat Wave for example. A band whose first single, “Gutter Girl,” garnered millions of plays, is one that no longer even appears on tour. The group felt that it never truly reflected the sound they wanted to make. Perhaps this is what happened with The Drums. What once was pop-rock goes surfing, is now just, synthpop. The guitar is still there, somewhat, but the 80s styled keys and drum machine are the true stars of the album.

The opener “Pretty Cloud”, is a danceable love ridden track that sounds like the theme to an old school arcade games boss fight. Pierce, the only remaining remember of the original outfit, gleams over the mic with enough prowess to carry the songs cloud metaphor-filled lyrics to genuine stature.

“Body Chemistry” begins to open the album up sonically, the first true use of instrumentation, a static bass jumps left and right as Pierce spirals out of emotions. On the track’s pre-chorus, he sings “I know some good luck and a good f*** / A nice glass of wine and some quality time / Is gonna make you mine”, perhaps the catchiest and one of the more memorable moments on the album entirely. The chorus is layered and structurally pleasing to hear as well. Same goes for “626 Bedford Avenue.” A pop-infectious rhythm that plays to Pierce’s strengths now as a solo act. The acoustic guitar on the verses is clean cut and very close, as the chorus contrasts and explodes into this lovely production with a couple fun lines here and there for good measure. “I should have left when you laughed at my shoes / But I keep on coming back.” If this was a new artist arriving on the scene, it might just well be championed. Two great singles and clear choices for the teaser track’s leading up to this release.

“Brutalism” starts to verge on the over-dramatic. Pierce is dealing with the missing of the one he currently loves and is now clutching to their t-shirt trying to remember them fondly. Somewhat lazy songwriting, the track is saved by the well-designed dark keys that drone throughout.
Songs like “Loner” and “Kiss It Away” begin to show Pierce’s limitations. They feel more like demos and without the help he once had, kind of fall apart and become forgettable. The idea can clearly be heard, but the execution feels rushed; like an essay without proofreading.

As for “I Wanna Go Back” and “Nervous” they feel as though they serve no proper place on the album whatsoever. An already short LP, they seem like an open-house performance Pierce put on back in college. Sentimental to the point where it just becomes whiny, the love songs offer little feeling of genuine substance. Instead tilt more towards the animated, the impassioned.

The album’s closer “Blip of Joy” is a welcomed return to form after 20 odd minutes of poetry. The Drums’ have always held this innate ability to slow down vocals on such a fast paced, almost blast like beat. The snares rush at you at speeds seemingly unbeknownst to the singer, as if they aren’t even there.

Sadly, a couple catchy singles and a nice outro can’t make up for the album’s downfalls. The album lands short of their prior discography and can at times be completely forgettable, even downright boring. To be fair, this is more just a Jonny Pierce solo project… one can hope for a reunion of sorts, but it appears The Drums’ sound isn’t going back to their roots just yet.

Rating:  6 / 10
Reviewer’s Favorite Tracks: “626 Bedford Avenue,” “Blip of Joy,” “Body Chemistry”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Tracks: “Nervous,” “I Wanna Go Back”

 

 

Matthew Dunn is a junior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email mzd5424@psu.edu.