While not exactly over-hyped, the debut from The Drums comes on the trail of the Brooklyn four-piece appearing in an array of -Ones to Watch’ lists at the start of 2010. The cheery first single -Let’s Go Surfing’ was a welcome sunny jaunt in the midst of the bleak midwinter and with the height of summer imminent, it’s no wonder we hold out hope that the floppy-fringed, fresh-faced Drums can provide that essential summer album.
In quite an un-summery opening line, they hit us with ‘you were my best friend, but then you died’, cloaked in a sparse, angular rock sound more reminiscent of a late ’70s and ’80s northern England than a ’50s surfing sound, though in this song – as throughout the album – they take a little from column A, a little from column B. It’s this mix that makes songs which are often sad sound quite uplifting. The production, which is very stripped back and sounds like it was recorded on a four-track in a garage, recalls the sound of both the Beach Boys and Joy Division while turning up the treble and turning down the bass. In fact this album may sound fantastic on through the speakers of a mobile phone and one can only pray that some kid plays this on the top deck 19A instead of annoying us with the buffed-up nonsense they are currently -sharing’ with passengers through those tinny speakers.
The first single ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ does indeed contain all you need for that great summer tune: a tasty bit of whistling, handclaps, a beat that you can dance like Ian Curtis to, and carefree, uplifting lyrics that add more to Obama’s election (even if the lyric is “O mama I want to go surfing”) than to any particular beach sport (‘Wake up, there’s a new kid in the town/Honey, he’s moving into the big house’). While the rest of the album is somewhat more subdued, they stick to what they are good at and make great use of the minimal angular sound but with a breezy beat underneath. This adds great shading to what is mostly a black & white sound (compared, say, to Vampire Weekend’s technicolor blending of not wildly dissimilar sounds).
Particularly successful tracks such as -Skippin’ Town’ and -We Tried’ continue this cheery but monotone vein, though the most warm and full sound comes with the second-last track. -I’ll Never Drop My Sword’ thanks to some acoustic guitar and a subtle, fat synth underneath. It’s a welcome burst of colour at the end.
While not plumbing any specific depths of the soul, it’s certainly a fun album packed with simple and clever songs that much like the summer so far is one of contrasting greys, bursts of colour and a notion that dancing can cure all ills – for a while at least.