Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Universal Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
The third record is the proving ground. Great debuts are a dime a dozen and surpassing the sophomore slump is an impressive feat, but the third time's the charm for a reason. A successful third album is where a band presents themselves as more than an interesting sight on the horizon. It's the transition to being something of a permanent landmark, a memory worth having.
Reduced now to a two-piece, NYC indie-rock outfit The Drums are back. By the skin of their teeth. Emerging from a mushroom cloud of personal disputes and industry exhaustion, the band that produced student night staple “Let’s Go Surfing” has been cleaved in half. It’s been three-odd years since Portamento, the last record to feature Connor Hanwick, and the lingering enclave of Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham are seeking reinvention.
When The Drums’ debut Summertime EP was released in 2009, it was part of a new wave of optimistic US indie-pop that dissipated whatever remained of the post-Libertines rut that the UK had been in. They lead the charge along with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts; suddenly it didn’t seem as though Britain would be stuck with The View or The Pigeon Detectives forever. Comparatively exotic, these acts laid the groundwork for what would later become a notable revival in ‘slacker’, ‘twee’ and ‘fey’ indie.
To love The Drums is to love contradictions. They sing morose lyrics over bouncing, shimmering, reverb-heavy guitar notes; they describe themselves as “losers,” but they’re far too skilled at their moody, muscled guitar pop for that label to stick. In the past, they’ve drawn (accurate) comparisons to ’80s alternative rock and indie pop giants like The Smiths and New Order, and they haven’t strayed too far away from those influences on their newest effort, Encyclopedia.
The Drums were the kind of nostalgic indie-pop band that made people want to jump for joy. Even if you were left jumping at the idea of being broke (on 2011’s “Money”), the despair didn’t matter, because the output found happiness in the condition. But after a tumultuous three-year lull that saw a founding member leave the band and ambitious solo projects from singer Johnny Pierce and instrumentalist Jacob Graham never materialize, The Drums decided to create Encyclopedia, which comes across as more of a cathartic experiment for them than more of what their fans had come to love.
There’s something quite tragic about The Drums. Ahead of this, their third album, drummer Connor Hanwick left the band, leaving childhood friends singer Jonathan Pierce and guitarist Jacob Graham to pick up the pieces. Unsurprisingly, the sun and surf of their original sound has been dropped for a deflated and threadbare aesthetic. But ‘Encyclopedia’, their first new music in three years, is a cohesive listen.
It's easy to forget that the Drums were once touted as the "next big thing" by the British press, partly due to the fact that their self-titled debut LP (although overly strong) failed to live up to the lofty hype. With the release of 2011's Portamento, their swiftly recorded follow-up, the Drums promptly killed off any remaining momentum via a collection of songs that offered listeners nothing more than a rehash of past work. On Encyclopedia, the band's third full-length, the Drums have assumed complete control over their music, taking over recording decisions while freeing themselves from major label doldrums, giving them free reign to reinvent their sound and musical approach.
Among other things they borrowed from the Smiths, the Drums have a tendency to be outraged and subsequently fueled by public indifference and failure—2011’s half-great, half-whatever Portamento was frontloaded by golden singles with dime-thin production, a tacit acknowledgement of their demotion from a Next Big Thing as martyrdom; not coincidentally, the hook on its first single went, “I want to buy you something/ But I don’t have any money. ” Three years later, with their third album on as many labels, Encyclopedia makes much stronger overtures to the thinning crowd in a way that's weirdly charming: the Drums are a band who try to succeed on their own terms, but their terms never change. They just try harder.
Brooklyn duo The Drums have decided to “stick their necks out” for third studio release Encyclopedia. Aiming for “less dreaminess”, they’ve certainly thrown caution to the wind, pushing the experimental side further forward and the older, faster and poppy material to the side as they “leave the beach for higher ground”. The duo weren’t always a duo of course; originally a quartet, Adam Kessler left in 2010 with Connor Harwick following a couple of years later, leaving the band down to its core (and original catalyst) of Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham.
The Drums’ self-titled debut saw Brooklyn duo Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham attempt to bring Beach Boys-indebted surf rock back into the contemporary music consciousness. Awash with summer colour and sun-drenched melodies, the pair displayed a knack for melody and lyrics that even made teenage melancholia seem fun. Their 2011 follow-up largely followed the same path, before a turbulent subsequent 3 years.