Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Drums @ Heaven, London

8 June 2010

It’s a proven fact that adding some whistling to a pop song will make it at least eight times more enjoyable. So with a purse of the lips, it took just the giddy high of Let’s Go Surfing to assure Brooklyn band The Drums a position in every tipster’s hot-to-trot list for 2010.

But those lists have this year not been self-fulfilling prophecies after all, with even the uncomplicated hooks of Ellie Goulding and Marina And The Diamonds and the sophisti-pop of Hurts not yet doing as well as could reasonably have been hoped for. Meanwhile The Drums seemed to disengage for the first half of the year until now, stepping it up with the arrival of their self-titled debut album.

Their blend of guitar-driven pop songs and Jonathan Pierce’s atonal singing seems about as “now” as you can get, while simultaneously being very “then”: see also Foals and Delphic. It’s not to going to be to everyone’s liking but then The Smiths and Joy Division weren’t either. Yet it is the type of music that tends to get tastemakers foaming from their orifices and, more importantly, corners a specific part of the music-loving market.

What did become obvious when watching the band at their biggest headline London gig yet was that however good (or bad) you may think they are on record, they’re better live. A stage bathed in a blue backlight unveiled the four of them in silhouette form for the first track It Will All End In Tears creating a dramatic effect for their entrance. Best Friend followed on from that, and with the lights now on the band were introduced properly.

And quite apart from their much commented on skinny waistlines and sucked in bone structures, there’s a lot to look at as Pierce is constantly upstaged by guitarist Jacob Graham’s over-the-top dancing, tambourine playing and foppish and dramatic gestures. They create a great energy charged with youthful excitement, and it’s this that gives their live performance an extra dimension.

A fiercely devoted fanbase ensured that even though the album had been out for one day, every song was chanted along to. Their following became more and more excitable as the gig went on; with their nearest thing to a ballad, Down By The Water, being left till last, they ensured that there wasn’t much time for respite.

Nonetheless as good a gig as this was, too many of the tracks don’t quite leave enough of a mark. Their songs aren’t big enough or catchy enough to truly break them into mass appeal. Hopefully they’ve got enough self-awareness to know that and to enjoy what they are. If they’re happy surfing along just underneath that crossover point they’ll have a great ride, because as a cult band, they are just about spot on.

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More on The Drums
The Drums – Encyclopedia
The Drums – Portamento
The Drums @ Hoxton Square Bar + Kitchen, London
The Drums @ Heaven, London
The Drums – The Drums