Following the departure of founding member, Jacob Graham, surf-rock band The Drums release Abysmal Thoughts, their fourth studio album. Especially when compared with previous album titles (The Drums, Portamento and Encyclopedia) the forthcoming album title announces a change of tone, a shift towards something darker.
The shift comes as something of a shock given the up-beat, Beach-Boys-inspired sound which made the band famous and which they stuck to, more or less faithfully, for three albums. It becomes somewhat less surprising though when one takes into account the internal rifts in the band, always on the verge of breaking up. Frontman Johnny Pierce takes full responsibility for the writing and production and claims that the rupture from previous releases was inspired by the break-down of a long-term relationship and a relocation from long-time home New York to Los Angeles. The album was created over more than a year of home-recording on the same guitar, synthesizer, drum-machine and reverb-unit with which the Drums first started making music and even if the lyrics are now much more melancholy, there are still the same subtle harmonies and catchy hooks which won their debut album such acclaim.
Opening track Mirror pours out Graham’s professional and personal anxieties, told through confessional, image-heavy lyrics and the repeated chorus ‘I look in the mirror/ when the sun goes down/ I ask myself; ‘Who are you now?’’ and the hook ‘I’ve been here before/ I room without a door’. Tracks such as these make clear references to feelings of isolation and depression whereas songs like I’ll Fight for Your Life deal with another key theme: the devotion and desperation which emerge when fighting to make a struggling relationship work. The band have clearly matured and the lyrics on selected songs are testament to a high level of self-awareness and insight, for example ‘I’m scared of the child which lies within me/ I wonder if he learns’ in Blood Under My Belt.
No longer the good-time boys of the indie-rock scene, the Drums offer something a bit more hard-hitting with this new release, even if the principle musical components are much the same.
However, Abysmal Thoughts feels a bit flat for having lost the joyfulness of break-out tracks like I Wanna Go Surfing or Money, which offered a much-needed dose of escapism.
The Drums’ new album comes out June 16th via Anti-Records