The Drums – now solely comprising of founder Jonny Pierce – have not only just released their fourth album, but have also just released their best album. I realise that’s some statement to open with, especially when their first two efforts – The Drums (2010) and Portamento (2011) – included indie favourites, ‘Let’s Go Surfing’, ‘Money’, and ‘Days’, but Abysmal Thoughts feels like Pierce in a consistency he hasn’t found before. It’s the perfect equilibrium of all their summery indie pop riffs and dark, yet undeniably honest song-writing.
Opening with arguably the strongest track, ‘Mirror’, Pierce sets the tone instantly; his enchanting, soft vocals delve into the self-critical lyrics, as he cries ‘I look in the mirror’ over an irresistible, surf-rock riff. It’s an apt opener, as the following 11 tracks see Pierce lament past mistakes, broken relationships, and ultimately explore genuinely personal issues. It’s the straightforward honesty of lyrics like ‘please call me and tell me that you want me’ in ‘Heart Basel’ where Pierce seems most vulnerable; he may have just over half a million monthly listens on Spotify, but he’s a human with human issues, and he wants us to know it and he also wants it to be a great listen. From dreamy synth pulses to unrestrained sax solos, Pierce constructs a stream of layered, catchy melodies that make it somehow incredibly fun to listen to this man pour his heart out with what are quite depressing, heavy lyrics.
he may have just over half a million monthly listens on Spotify, but he’s a human with human issues
Jacob Graham officially announced his departure from the band earlier in the year, and although they didn’t split on bad terms, this did leave Jonny Pierce alone to make an album truly about himself. ‘Head of the Horse’ – a track about struggling for acceptance from those closest to you – is particularly personal, given that Pierce has previously opened up about struggling with his identity when growing up. Indeed, if he had Graham’s influence he may have amended some of the messier moments – I’m indirectly making a dig at my least favourite track here, ‘Are U Fucked’ – but, for better or for worse, it wouldn’t have been the same album, which is so charming for all its blemishes and imperfections.
He may be well into his thirties, but – from the overwhelming emotional vulnerability to the infectious indie pop instrumentals – Pierce’s Abysmal Thoughts feels charmingly innocent. There’s just something about The Drums, and it’s something that had always kept me intrigued with their first three records, but this time around it hit me square in the face – it’s this contrast between lyric and instrumental that is actually quite profound. The lyrics often really get me feeling down, yet many of their songs – along with this whole album – are my sounds of the summer. The music is ultimately relaxing, enjoyable, and even triumphant. Pierce may have a lot of emotion he wants to get out, but he’s not afraid to make music that sounds hopeful and optimistic in the process.