If you look under the tag of jingly upbeat surf rock, you may find The Drums soaking in saccharine summer bliss. Perhaps the best example of this would be their breakthrough single, ‘Lets Go Surfing’, featuring the easy on the eyes front-man Jonathan Pierce running along in the dark to a sun-kissed riff that made the video look like an indie after dark Baywatch. But what changed with Encyclopedia?
The Drums’ third effort feels hauntingly Autumnal at times for a group brought to fame by a killer anthem about hitting the waves. You could say ‘I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him’ is progression gliding with a stop-start riff, gentle electric plucks, and icy synths. Yet “I never thought that I’d wanna die/but I was looking for a gun” stands as lyrical evidence to the darker evolution of The Drums. They have undergone the transition between indie heart-throbs to serious contenders in the outskirts of the alternative rock field.
They still touch their heat wave heights in songs, however, like the soft rock swirls blowing up sand on the beach in ‘There Is Nothing Left’, while ‘Kiss Me Again’ mixes ’60s doo-rock with ’80s synth blasts for the hyped up chorus where Pierce sounds caught in a supercharged romance he can’t get enough of. More spirited sorrow rock comes in the form of ‘Face of God’, but it can’t quite capture in a picture that same youthful enthusiasm that made The Drums break into the atmosphere.
You can’t help longing for the surf drenched zest of their debut, even though the first effort had its dark moments (take the slow tambourine hits and somber drum taps of ‘Down By The Water’ for example). And although there are some strong tracks, such as the loud urgency that comes through on ‘Magic Mountain’, it feels more forced than effortless now, and maybe that’s what The Drums are working to regain. You can’t fault their third effort as it has it’s great moments that ring loud and clear, but you do wonder if the absence of Adam Kessler (who quit the band back in September 2010) is still eating a hole into the band chemistry. For now The Drums are safe with ‘Encyclopedia’, but hopefully next time they may evolve into a group less chronological, and surprise us.
Enyclopedia is out now via Minor Records