There’s an ominous grey clouding these songs’ sunny skies.
Si Hawkins 2010
It isn’t difficult to fathom how The Drums became the most name-droppable of new bands. New York acts have always travelled well, often making it big in Britain before doing likewise back home, but this savvy quartet also have exquisite timing. As the world self-flagellated over its financial woes last year they released an EP whose standout track featured the memorable refrain, “Oh momma, I wanna go surfing / oh momma, I don’t care about nothing”. Well, even a one-legged recluse could relate to that.
Let’s Go Surfing – written on the day of Obama’s inauguration, hence the optimism – makes a welcome return on their eponymous debut LP, and while the rest of the record isn’t quite so extravagantly escapist, it’s still a welcome espresso-rush of hooks and harmonies, with a healthy dose of lyrical darkness thrown in to ease the digestion.
Follow-up single Best Friend kicks us off, a sort of tragic human take on the story of Greyfriars Bobby (loyal mutt awaits return of dead master, spawns range of attractive commemorative mugs), with frontman Jonathan Pierce in sub-prime Morrissey mode, moping around on the bonnet of his late friend’s car. Manchester’s influence provides much of the ominous grey that clouds these songs’ sunny skies, in fact. Book of Stories and It Will All End in Tears both sport uplifting Phil Spector-like walls of sound, but also trebly Peter Hook basslines and choruses that are actually, on second listen, slightly heartbreaking.
But only slightly. The outlook here is more Love Theme from The Breakfast Club than Love Will Tear Us Apart, and like the finest John Hughes movies, all words are awash with teenage hormones and thus shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The Drums are no longer teens, admittedly, but their record skilfully conjures a time long before credit crunches, when the most important thing in the world was your current squeeze.
“You’ve got to believe me when I say, when I say the word forever,” croons Pierce, in the doo-woppy Down by the Water. “And whatever comes your way, we’ll still be here together.” Of course, they probably won’t be. But it’s nice to dream, just for a while.