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Album Review: The Drums – Portamento

 
By on Tuesday, 13th September 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

There must be something in the water in New York. Most, if not all, of the dramas set in that widescreen, moviescape city are either stories of love, or dramas of destruction. Or both, which is what Jonathan Pierce and the Drums have unveiled with Portamento. Plainly recorded, with an almost toy-like approach to instrumentation – drums are tinnily programmed, guitars are clean and muted – the themes are anything but childlike. Kicking straight into existential philosophy, ‘Book of Revelation’ spares no time in setting the tone for the rest of the album. Apparently with little time for creationism, despite its religious references, Pierce is quite clear on his point of view: statements such as ”when we die, we die”, or ”there’s no heaven, and no hell” indicative of the nihilistic stance of the album.

Having established his mindset, the next task is to decipher how this influences the narrator’s attitude to life and love. The answer is a singular mixture of superiority and self-flagellating regret. The former is evident in ‘Days’’ cocksure statement of intent: “days go by / and I never needed you”. Oh really? Except you had to write a song about it? A similar blame transference occurs in ‘Hard to Love’, where the backhanded compliment is king: “I would never leave you / but you’re hard to love” leaves the listener just as confused as the real-life recipient presumably was.

Suddenly, about halfway through, our protagonist is overcome with an attack of self-doubt, and the tone changes from one of blame to reflection. A detailed description of the lyrical content is unnecessary – with blunt song titles such as ‘I Don’t Know How to Love’, ‘Please Don’t Leave’, and ‘I Need a Doctor’, the bipolar nature of the album is clear from a brief perusal of its sleeve. There’s a lovely choral segue into the Tomitaesque synths of ‘Searching for Heaven’, which matches its spiritual theme beautifully, as if our narrator was despondent before St Peter, unable to accept the existence of something beyond the material, even as it is proven before his very eyes.

‘I Need A Doctor’ actually provides some light relief with its uptempo lightweight beats but continues the disturbing lyrical tone, with talk of loving someone because they’re childlike and stupid, and thus being able to refrain from killing them. ‘How It Ended’ appropriately closes the album, and is arguably the only positive, uplifting song to be found here, with its shiny, happy façade of longing for an unrequited love to return: it’s a much-needed ray of sunshine in an altogether darkly-drawn set.

Musically, this could be the sunnier, faster cousin of Joy Division, with its abstract synths and Hookian bass. Whether by design or coincidence, there’s hints of contemporaries Futureheads and the xx in there too. The sound is defined by its architectural simplicity; however there’s one too many major to relative minor shifts and use of semitone intervals to achieve the depth across twelve tracks that the band surely aspire to. This isn’t, frankly, a masterpiece, especially from a musical point of view. Perhaps the departure of guitarist Adam Kessler has affected their breadth more than the band care to admit. However, there are some astonishingly candid lyrics, especially the polarisation between externalised angst and internalised self-doubt. A cautionary tale for those still learning about matters of the heart: don’t try this at home, folks!

7/10

‘Portamento’, the sophomore album from the Drums, is available now from Moshi Moshi / Island.

 

MP3 of the Day #393: The Drums

 
By on Monday, 5th September 2011 at 10:00 am
 

Here’s another remix of the Drums‘ single ‘Money’, by Craft Spells from Seattle. The pop band describes themselves as “4 lads playin’ tunez” on their Facebook page, though based on their treatment of the Drums’ new song turns the tune decidedly darker, with Jonathan Pierce’s voice gothy against the backdrop of Passion Pit-esque synth backing. Listen to it and download it below.

The Drums’ second album ‘Portomento’ is out today on Moshi Moshi.

 

Preview: Split Festival 2011

 
By on Friday, 2nd September 2011 at 11:00 am
 

The fourth Split Festival returns to the Ashbrooke Sports Club in Sunderland on 17th and 18th September. The two-day festival, curated by Sunderland’s own Futureheads, boasts a fine slice of local talent, whilst offering enough international acts to keep even the most jaded festival-goer awake. At the time of writing, tickets are still available at the bargain price of £35 for the full weekend.

For any enthusiast of the vibrant Northeast scene, or fans of its melodic, harmonised sound, the goodies on offer at Split are second to none. Saturday features the sparkly, newly-minted Vinyl Jacket from Northumberland, Sunderland’s ornithological instrumentalists B>E>A>K, the delicate and dramatic Newcastle-bred but L.A. enthusiast Beth Jeans Houghton, and a rare chance to catch Jarrow’s poppy guitarslingers Little Comets. Saturday’s talent from further afield includes 80s widescreeners Spector, the mathy Dutch Uncles, and straight-ahead indie veterans the Rifles, whose new album is due out just a couple of days later. Then there’s a chance to see how the Mystery Jets’ new material is coming along, before headliners the Drums (pictured above) give a masterclass in deceptively simple, melodic New York thought-pop, showcasing new album ‘Portamento’ released the same week.

There’s a distinctly punky edge to Sunday’s line-up: Sunderland’s vintage punk rockers Leatherface, active for over 20 years, are still capable of ear-bleeding intensity, after whom the Dauntless Elite, Dinosaur Pile-Up and the King Blues create a triptych of melodic noise that should satisfy all but the most hardcore of punk fans. Bringing light to the shade are the sunny Tomahawks For Targets from Newcastle, Sunderland’s superb, trippy Hyde & Beast, featuring both a Futurehead and a Golden Virgin, and the jangly Ganglians with their dreamy Sacramento psych-rock. A homecoming gig for pop ‘n’ rollers Frankie and the Heartstrings is worth wearing a quiff for, before headliners the Charlatans put on the granddad shirts and baggy jumpers and shake it like it’s 1990.

If that feast of musical goodness wasn’t enough, there’s a literal feast on offer, with Masterchef finalist Stacie Stewart cooking up a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in honour of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, which, rhymingly enough, was written in Sunderland. Not to mention the superb Fringe Tent, with Beth Orton headlining the Saturday, or Sunday’s enviable comedy line-up. A veritable treat for a modest price – even Geordies must be tempted to cross the river for it.

General Admission tickets are available for Saturday, Sunday and the whole weekend. Prices are £25.00 for a day ticket and £40.00 for a weekend ticket (booking and postage fees apply). There is an additional VIP ticket option called ‘Friends of Split’, giving you access to the festival on either Saturday, Sunday or the whole weekend plus access to the ‘Friends of Split’ area where there will be a dedicated bar service with local Real ales, lagers and spirits and a luxury seating area, you will also receive some Split branded merchandise including a ‘Friends of Split’ t-shirt. Prices for Friends of Split tickets are £44.00 for a day ticket and £71.50 for a weekend ticket (inclusive of booking fees, postage fees apply). For more information, visit the official Split Festival Web site.

 

The Drums / November and December 2011 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 1st September 2011 at 8:00 am
 

One of the great American indie success stories of 2010, the Drums will be touring the UK this winter. Tickets for the below dates are on sale now.

Monday 28th November 2011 – Birmingham Institute at the Library
Tuesday 29th November 2011 – Newcastle O2 Academy
Wednesday 30th November 2011 – Leeds Metropolitan University
Saturday 3rd December 2011 – Glasgow O2 ABC
Sunday 4th December 2011 – Edinburgh Picture House
Monday 5th December 2011 – Cambridge Junction
Tuesday 6th December 2011 – Portsmouth Pyramids Centre
Thursday 8th December 2011 – Bristol O2 Academy
Friday 9th December 2011 – London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Saturday 10th December 2011 – Manchester Ritz

 

MP3 of the Day #382: The Drums

 
By on Thursday, 18th August 2011 at 10:00 am
 

The Beat Connection has remixed the Drums‘s ‘Money’, giving the single and entirely different feel, almost tropical. A feel I’m not sure I really agree with! Have a listen to and download the remix below.

Don’t miss the band on their November/December tour of the UK – details here.

 

Video of the Moment #532: The Drums

 
By on Tuesday, 26th July 2011 at 6:00 pm
 

The Drums have released the video for their new single, ‘Money’, the first one off their second album (‘Portamento’) to drop in mid-September. Read my previous single review here.

The scenes in this video, while quite literal from the lyrics, don’t make a lot of sense. Still, as should be expected from a couple of blokes very keen on the cinema, it’s shot beautifully. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqYgNiZdfh4[/youtube]

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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