Sad Songs in Disguise

By Caren Badtke

unnamedBefore The Drums had even brought out their full-length debut in 2010, the music world got really excited: with their zeitgeisty tunes and pretty faces, they could easily ride the crest of the 80’s throwback-indie wave with fellow New Yorker band The Virgins and all their British counterparts (Mystery Jets, Good Shoes).

Following their 2009 “Summertime” EP,  the BBC included The Drums in its list of artists to watch out for, while Pitchfork featured every step they took, and NME, as usual, happily jumped on the best-band-ever-bandwagon.

After the opening act Beverly (Brooklyn surf-rock á la Best Coast), The Drums enter the stage, still looking like the pretty boys they were presented as in 2010. Since then, though, the lineup has considerably changed; three records have been brought forth, one pretty awesome, one pretty good, one pretty experimental/slash-mediocre; singer Johnny Pierce had temporarily been in the press for his sexuality rather than his music, and the label has been changed twice. This year’s “Encyclopedia,” even though experimental, proves to be pretty repetitive and bland because the boys might have tried a little too hard.

The Drums still follow their routine of catchy, refrain-based songs that deal with sad topics and sound all but that. With a considerably smaller fandom, it is no surprise that in a city like Tucson, the chosen venue Club Congress stays half-empty. The fans who do come, however, still have that particular, 2010-Urban-Outfitters look about them. The Drums jump into their set with “Bell Laboratories,” a catchy enough song from this year’s “Encyclopedia.” Too hesitant to be first-song-material, it doesn’t get the crowd going, but soon The Drums start pulling out the big guns. “Me And The Moon” and “Money” loosen up the audience between newer songs, as the band seems to enjoy the new material just a tiny bit more than their hits. “I don’t wanna dance anymore/I don’t wanna sing anymore,” croons singer Johnny Pierce in “Book Of Stories.”

Whereas the band had always been always surrounded by an effortlessly cool vibe, they now simply seem to not care anymore. To Pierce’s right, the keyboardist, looking like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis minus the jerky movements, stares into the crowd as if he wants to be anywhere but here. The Drums are still those sad boys, singing sad songs in a pretty, catchy disguise, but the disappointment is painfully obvious that, even though they tried harder each time to follow up the success of their self-titled debut, the third album did not cut it after all. While their set goes on, mixing well known songs with those that are there to fill in the blanks, they deliver a sturdy performance until they reach the end of the set.

Granting the audience an encore (Pierce and Co. have two aces up their sleeves after all), they return with “Let’s Go Surfing,” their cheeky Obama-inspired single that they wrote on the day of his being elected in 2009 (Wake Up, there’s a new kid in the town, he’s moving into the big house/he’s gonna make it all better […] Obama, I wanna go surfing,”), before concluding their set with the Gossip Girl featured ballad “Down By The Water,” and creating one of the sweetest sing-along moments of the night. 

Setlist:

  • Bell Laboratories
  • Let Me
  • Me And The Moon
  • Days
  • I Can’t Pretend
  • Kiss Me Again
  • Book Of Stories
  • Money
  • US National Park
  • Book Of Revelation
  • I Need A Doctor
  • I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him
  • How It Ended

Encore:

  • Baby, That’s Not The Point
  • Let’s Go Surfing
  • Down By The Water

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