The Drums – Abysmal Thoughts

Jonny Pierce broadens his vocabulary while maintaining a thirst for melody...

Back in February 2010, The Drums played their first UK shows as part of the NME Awards tour. At the heart of their early buzz was lead singer Jonny Pierce’s exuberant, overtly dramatic performances. Writhing around like Morrisey’s long-lost American nephew while banging his tambourine to The Drum’s brand of stripped-down, reverb-heavy, ‘80s-influenced indie pop he was undeniably one of the more charismatic members of the 2000s indie rock scene. The UK hadn’t seen tambourine shaking like it since the halcyon days of Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown.

During the tour, The Drums played at the bottom of a line-up that featured The Big Pink, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees. Tellingly, The Drums are the only act still together. From the original line-up that played on that tour, only Pierce remains. The last man standing.

Listening to the band’s fourth and latest album ‘Abysmal Thoughts’, it’s clear their ‘80s keystones are still intact. Violently catchy opener ‘Mirror’ will have you scrapping out your ears all day long trying to get that earworm chorus out. But The Drums have always been catchy. This time they’re gutsy and reflective. Instead of naively looking forward with wild abandon, Pierce is caught beating his brow, asking himself in said mirror, “Where are you now?” He’s not going to go surfing anytime soon.

In fact, the first five songs all continue in this manner — a fine array of songs, maybe the best Pierce has ever come up with. There’s a bit more pop sheen than we’re used to from the band. A slinky guitar part playing underneath the chorus of ‘I’ll Fight For Your Life’. Pierce’s effortless, unwavering falsetto on ‘Heart Basel’. The dreamy, chugging atmosphere on ‘Shoot The Sun Down’.

As the songs start to slow in the second half of the album, the focus starts to wander. The songs aren’t bad, The Drums have put out a lot worse, they just drop the thrilling momentum of the earlier half.

The big question surrounding the release of this album is whether Pierce should still be using The Drums name, despite being the only member left. It is a bit Axl Rose after all.

Pierce was set to release a solo album in 2013 before decided to bring back his on-the-rocks band instead. The single that was released from his solo project, ‘I Didn’t Realise’, was far removed from The Drums, its glitchy, bedroom electronica resembling Animal Collective more than Aztec Camera.

Yet this record is so unequivocally The Drums; a subtle update on the formulaic template that made them a success back in 2010. And rather than just being a shell of a song, like you could accuse some of those earlier hits of being (*ahem* ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ is basically excessive reverb and whimsical whistling) Pierce is now using the full vocabulary of the ‘80s.


Words: Ricky Jones

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