Brutalism is a step in the right direction for The Drums; their 2017 album, Abysmal Thoughts, stretched their 80’s indie pop sound as far as it could go, but the sign of a good musician is their intuition towards stylistic expansion. Brutalism capitalizes on a pop sensibility that has always underscored Jonny Pierce’s songwriting and amplifies it to a magnificent volume; employing studio musicians, engineers, and a producer to polish the dust off of The Drums indie sound.
With this change in form comes one in content. Rather than characteristically romanticizing depression and heartbreak, Pierce clashes with his demons head on in cathartic liberation. The lyrics brutally juxtaposes the album’s sun–bathed indie pop instrumentation. At times, it’s jarring: “It took so long to reach this mountain top / With just one kiss I forget I hate myself,” he sings on "Blip of Joy," dangerously finding relief in the lips of his hookup.
Across the record, Pierce is hot and cold as he either embraces or avoids connection. Sometimes, he engages in romantic encounters with one arm extended: On “626 Bedford Avenue” he sings “Baby, let’s have a conversation/And God forbid we have a connection.” However, on the album’s title track, Pierce indulges in a treacherous love admitting “I’m no stranger at taking risks / I’ve bet my life on one kiss,” as he expresses his desire to see his lover again.
Particularly strong is the track “Lonerism.” The song opens on a perfectly dissonant guitar riff, and in a moment of perfect attention to detail, a sample of a crowded room of people speaking plays moments before the first verse, amplifying the anxiety in the song. The chaotic drum beat underscores Pierce’s suave vocals as he wishes for more substance in his empty hookup. “You said you could cum, I said I could, too/I wish there was more between me and you,” he sings just before launching into a very catchy chorus. The song is a thematic cornerstone for the album and The Drums’ discography as a whole; it’s simultaneously fun and chaotic, bright and dark, full of love and full of anxiety.
TL;DR “Should I Listen To This Album”
This album can be deceiving with its uplifting melodies and melancholic subject matter. If you listen to the music, it’ll make you happy, but if you pay close attention to the words, then you might get sad. Regardless, the catchy, sun–soaked hooks will garner your interest. Even if post–punk/new wave revivalism isn’t your main cup of tea, there’s bound to be a song on this record that will have you dancing along for many listens to come.
The Drums play The Foundry on May 9th, 2019. More info and tickets can be found on their website.