Thursday, October 6, 2011

Show review: The Drums at Subterranean, 10/4

By Andrew Hertzberg

It was about a year ago that I did my first show review for this website. Afterwards, I spent the night solving the world’s issues until 4 a.m. with a friend, after a few rounds of course (see bio). A year on, I’m seeing the Drums again, and those late night conversations still proceed. This time about the current and future states of music (you know, because that’s something we can predict). It led me to objectively look into what it is I like about the Drums. On the surface they come off as another indie band. Bunch of white dudes from Brooklyn make post-New Romantic songs in the vein of the Cure, the Smiths and New Order. If imitation is the best form of flattery, the Drums are on the edge of over-flattering. What your ear initially picks up is how the bouncy pop songs are juxtaposed with gloomy lyrics. For instance, last year’s eponymous debut LP begins with a major key and the line “you were my best friend but then you died.” Quite a mood setter to begin an album (a format we seem to still embrace) that sets the pace throughout.

This year’s Portamento doesn’t veer too far off that road, but as I remember from their live show, their singer is tops. It’s not even that he dances like no one’s watching, but that he’ll jog in place in time with their songs, a "dance" move that I associate with the '80s for some reason, the fastest cardiocore moves featured on the full bass and empty pockets "Money." It would come off as anachronistic if it weren’t so nostalgic. Not for the '80s in particular (even if that’s the vibe that comes off aesthetically), but for youth in general, for the desire for things to last forever, before the inevitable crush of the realization that life is futile, that things change, that despite all the good in the world, there is an equal amount of bad.

So for a band with generally glass-half-empty lyrics, the upbeatness of the music got the checkered tiled floor of SubT shaking, the crowd at the least affecting a quickened head-bob, some people full out hands in the air and trying to keep up with frontman Jonathan Pierce, who is the crossroads of Morrissey, Billy Idol and Julian Casablancas. The thing that impresses me most about the Drums is how a lot of their songs follow the same pattern: conventionally structured, a bass or keyboard line fighting as hard as it can for attention, a distant looking Pierce and too-cool-for-Brooklyn austere of the guitarist Jacob Graham. And yet, they all manage to be highly distinguishable from each other. The stand out for the set (considering the lack of "Let’s Go Surfing") was from their first album, the put your arm around your f, gf, or bff anthem of "Down By the Water," Pierce escaping his monotone voice for the most emphatic and passionate performance of the night. Considering the problems the Drums have had in the past as a band (losing members, creative differences), they still manage to look well put together live. However long the band lasts, they’re definitely worth catching live, especially in the smaller venues, and Pierce was absolutely grateful for the packed and devoted room.


Check out more show reviews:
Atari Teenage Riot at Reggies
Jane's Addiction at Metro
Peter Hook & the Light at Metro
Swans at Bottom Lounge
Freelance Whales at Empty Bottle

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant live band, like you said gloomy lyrics but they bring them to lift and are so energetic.