By Allison Kridle
Oftentimes when you see a lot of different musicians come and go from a band like we’ve seen from the indie rock group The Drums, it can be a challenge to really execute and hone a sound and identity. However, this hasn’t been the case for The Drums frontman, Jonny Pierce, who wrote and played everything on his own for the first time on The Drums’ fourth LP Abysmal Thoughts.
So far throughout their entire discography, the surfy, ‘50s inspired band has experimented a great deal with their sound. In 2009, when the group was a three piece, they released their first EP Summertime! with (as you probably guessed) beachy, summery tunes that almost made you feel sunburned after one listen. Nevertheless, it was catchy, lively, and downright delightful. Ever since then The Drums have worked on two far off points on a spectrum. They had their “Let’s Go Surfing,” vibe where Pierce incorporates flutey whistles into tracks, and like most artists there’s his dark side which fans vaguely heard in their first self-titled LP in 2010. Pierce exercised this level even further in their 2011 LP Portamento where he explores the afterlife and heartbreak. Coming to their 2014 LP Encylcopedia, the group discovered a happy medium between these two seemingly clashing levels. That’s when I (and probably many other fans) started to truly understand what Pierce wanted to show the world.
With Abysmal Thoughts there’s just enough dark and light, and just enough ups and downs. The LP begins with the track “Mirror,” that includes a low twangy bassline coupled with Pierce’s classic yet unique falsetto. He sings “I look in the mirror (Who are you?) / When the sun goes down / I ask myself / Who are you now?” Pierce brings his identity into question after being removed from someone he loved and grapples with who he could’ve been without giving his heart to a “breathing machine.”
In perhaps the most poppy track, “Blood Under My Belt,” Pierce asks for forgiveness. He pleads “Yes, it’s true that I hurt you / But I still love you, I love you, I still do / (But you don’t believe me).” The track “Heart Basel” is also a prime example of how Pierce meshes misery with cheeriness. Even though Pierce tells us about personal hardships, you almost feel yourself pushing against the full immersion into the melancholy especially since it’s set next to a sugary melody and Pierce’s hoppy vocals.
Throughout The Drums’ first few albums I was asking the same question to them that Pierce asks himself in the track “Mirror.” Who are you exactly? I couldn’t find the reconciliation between the beach-clad bunch and the agonizing realists, but I think it’s become pretty clear in Abysmal Thoughts. Existing among his sharp and playful guitar riffs and brooding lyrics, Pierce demonstrates a silver lining even in the worst of times, within the depths of even the most destructive thoughts. I don’t know if Pierce believes if he found himself or not, but whether or not he sees it, I think he’s getting closer and closer to finding out.