Following the release of their bright eyed debut, The Drums quickly begun to lose touch with the nuanced takes on happiness, love and vulnerability that were so beautifully encapsulated in the tracks that announced their arrival in 2010. Such was the popularity of their debut – and the hype that came with it – the increased attention and expectation caused The Drums to become emotionally erratic, with frontman Jonny Pierce becoming ever more self-indulgent in his frustrations toward relationships and lack of a record that bettered the band’s first. As a result, The Drums have gradually peeled apart, but, most importantly for fans, Jonny has remained, and he hopes to detail a personal redemption on the band’s fourth album, Abysmal Thoughts.
From the offset there was a sense of taking things back to basics with Abysmal Thoughts. Where Portamento had applied sunscreen to The Drum’s beaming sound, Encyclopaedia threw together a collection of overblown, emotionally confused ripostes in retaliation to claims the band couldn’t outgrow the sun-kissed beach pop ditties which had launched their career. Moving into a more settled mind-set, Pierce hit the studio alone and set about work on Abysmal Thoughts with an idea of evoking the sounds of his first LP; not just to rekindle a relationship with perplexed fans, but to dispel a growing impression that he was intent on trivialising his music and The Drum’s diminishing reputation.
The Drums had initially won hearts for their upbeat demeanour, so to hear early incarnations of their music juxtaposed with a retrospective Pierce meant Abysmal Thoughts was only going to swing one of two ways: an unceremonious mess and no doubt The Drum’s final record, or a new lease of life for the band where image, lyricism and instrumentation rest comfortably with one another. Thankfully for Jonny and his fans, Abysmal Thoughts sides with the latter – just.
The engaging conflict between bright instrumentals and confessional lyrics makes Abysmal Thoughts The Drum’s best use of melancholy to date. While their debut record took you beachside in the midday sun, Abysmal Thoughts heads back to the same spot seven years later, only this time the beach is empty and there is a light rain for accompaniment. Synthesiser whoops and delicate harmonies caress the aching content of Pierce’s lyrics, which hark back to yesteryear while allowing for new tales of sorrow to drive the album forward. ‘Blood Under My Belt’ and ‘Heart Basel’ work the combination to maximum effect, while ‘Mirror’ provides a strong opening for the album by instilling hope that some of The Drum’s best work is to follow in its path. It wouldn’t be The Drums without a moment that lacks creative controls, and the heady ‘Are U F**ked’ duly offers a taste of Pierce’s uncurbed musical imagination. ‘Head Of The Horse’ and ‘Under The Ice’ flirt with nostalgia, but resist the urge to delve into the depressive spiral, thus keeping the album on its upbeat track.
Throughout the record, the majority of tracks fail to capture the attention any more than the one that proceeded it, but that’s missing the point of Abysmal Thoughts. Here we have an artist fully aware of his destructive nature finally finding the stability to create a coherent body of work that progresses on the band’s debut. Sure, unhappy experiences have taken precedence in The Drum’s music through the years, but now choosing to detail such stories with eyes firmly fixed on the future brings a much needed relief to the music, not to mention an added depth in sound which appeared impossible if The Drums were ever to go back to basics.