Album Reviews

The Drums – Summertime EP

(Moshi Moshi) UK release date: 12 October 2009

The Drums - Summertime It’s easy to be suspicious of The Drums, four ridiculously cheek-boned young men from Florida. Firstly, they look the part, all plaid shirts under vintage denim and swept fringes over middle distance stares. Or, as fan Boy George said; “They look like four rent boys”.

They also arrive, as most American bands do these days, on a growing wave of hype, with proclamations of their genius ringing out from every music blog on the internet. The suspicion and cynicism evaporates as soon as the first note of Let’s Go Surfing kicks in, however.

Built around a skeletal bassline reminiscent of early The Cure and featuring the best whistling this side of Young Folks, its perfection is almost embarrassing. It’s also an oddly unsettling affair, with the chirpy melody and gadabout title masking a more defeated core: “Oh mama, I wanna go surfing/ Oh mama, I don’t care about nothing”. It’s as though the Beach Boys had they been raised in Manchester.

Elsewhere, Make You Mine utilises distant handclaps, splashing cymbals and more whistling to create a modern take on ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, whilst Submarine melds a Joy Division bassline with some spidery guitar riffs to spooky effect. Down By The Water slows things down to brilliantly melodramatic drip-feed, with singer Jonathan Pierce joined on the lovelorn chorus by some shimmering synth strings and group harmonies.

The most downbeat moment, musically at least, is then followed by the most exuberant. Saddest Summer is an urgent rush of new wave guitar pop, all processed claps and keyboard stabs, Pierce working himself up into a frenzy: “Summer’s just beginning baby/ I might learn to hate you lady”.

This preoccupation with summer is telling as the feel of the album is of stolen moments on holiday, or of extended hours spent at the beach not doing much but pining for the opposite sex. Perhaps the release date is appropriate, seeing as much of the lyrical content touches on the end of these holiday romances. What’s more depressing than a grey winter’s morning after a summer of carefree abandon?

One of the more direct break-up songs is the excellent Don’t Be A Jerk, Johnny, which sees Pierce verging on the spiteful: “You used to be so pretty/ But now you’re just tragic”. To balance this out, the chorus is sung by a female voice repeating the title as Pierce counters with “It’s out of love, it’s out of love”. As an evocation of the push and pull of a relationship on the verge of collapse it’s pretty spot on. I Felt Stupid is another Cure-esque creation that sounds like the soundtrack to one of the best ’80s high school movies never made.

If Summertime! is meant as a taster for what’s to come then we should all be very excited. Deciding on which of these songs to leave off of the debut album is going to be difficult, and it’s almost tempting to just cancel this release, whack on three more songs and release what would surely be one of 2010’s best albums. But that would mean denying people the chance to hear this band now, and we can’t have that. They lose half a point for releasing an album called Summertime in October, but other than that it’s practically faultless.

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