As I struggled to come up with ideas for an article to write, I scrolled through the New Releases section of YouTube music, and there it was: “Jonny,” the new album by NYC-based indie rock band The Drums. I had heard a handful of songs by the band, and liked nearly all of them. They shared frantic drumming, jangly guitar, and catchy choruses (“Let’s Go Surfing” is a personal favorite), giving each melody the unique feeling of 1950s surf rock and classic 80s pop. Then I figured, why not review the album? So I did.
“I Want It All” – It’s a little bland. Jonathan Pierce, the band’s singer, doesn’t have a voice particularly well suited to slower, more emotional songs, which makes this relatively uninspiring five minute track drag.
“Isolette” – A more fun, more quick, and more good song. With a catchy chorus and an excellent sense of motion throughout, lended to the track by the band’s eponymous instrument, it’s one of the stronger songs on the album.
“I’m Still Scared” – Adding electronic sampling was not the way to go. The squeaks that would be more fitting in a techno song downgrade this otherwise pretty decent song. No, it’s not as good as they can be, but a step in the right direction.
“Better” – Although it got stuck in my head for 20 minutes after I listened to it, there’s really very little in here that hasn’t been done already in the album, as its tonal and percussive beats are unoriginal. Thus far, nearly all the songs have shared the same issue of the guitar being a bit too light and quiet, weakening the melodies and causing an overreliance on Pierce’s vocals, that are, let’s be honest here, not the strongest.
“Harms” – One of the more unique songs on the album, this one has a solid driving bassline accompanied by a choir of background vocalists that create a certain sense of peace and calm. But wait! Here you were thinking there was finally a truly good song! You were wrong. Pierce’s vocals are absolutely not suited for an emotional lamentation backed up by an angelic choir. Pierce would fit in more with a 2000s post-punk band that nobody likes. Maybe the band just needs a new singer? Would that fix all the issues, simply firing Pierce? Perhaps. Food for thought.
“Little Jonny” – Why did they make this album? Seriously, why does this exist? This song is too slow, too emotional, too boring, and far too unoriginal? And the kicker: it’s 90 seconds long! I hated it this much after just 90 seconds! I didn’t know that was possible, so thanks, I guess.
“Plastic Envelope” – This one actually isn’t too bad. Kicking off with a great bass line and some solid drums, it retains its momentum and is just catchy enough to keep me from zoning out. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to call it a good song, but I don’t want to cover my ears, so that’s a plus.
“Protect Him Always” – As I listened, I did my APUSH homework, and somehow I subconsciously made the choice that reading about the formation of the Second National Bank would be more engaging than this song. It was.
“Be Gentle” – Finally, a decent song. With a Mac DeMarco-esque chillness and a slow yet groovy melody that compliments Pierce’s voice, it’s simply a bunch of good vibes in a solid four minute package.
“Dying (with Rico Nasty)” – As the song started, all I could think was how bad this album was. A dull and overly sentimental intro with not nearly enough drums (by which I mean none). But, like a light in the darkness, Rico Nasty’s verse comes around, and instantly elevates the song with her strong vocals (it’s been quite a few songs without a good singer at this point) and a catchy, quicker melody. After her verse, it loses a bit of steam, but remains a far stronger track than most of the others.
“Green Grass” – Although this one is just as frustratingly drab as all the others, it has one thing none of the other songs do: good singing from Jonathan Pierce. As I write this sentence I’m doubting myself, because how could Jonathan Pierce possibly do some half decent singing, but he hits all the right notes on the chorus, which is a welcome breath of fresh air.
“Obvious” – One of the best tracks on the album. Finally, there’s some sharp drumming, a great, uptempo guitar part, and adequate lyrics. Despite an uninspired vocal performance from Jonathan Pierce (shocker), it’s not a bad song and stands out (standing out isn’t necessarily a high bar here).
“The Flowers” – Another one with a quicker beat, it’s solid as a whole. A little unremarkable, yes, but the chorus is catchy and it remains a stronger song than most of the others.
“Teach My Body” – Not only is this bland and forgettable, it’s also kind of unpleasant. The instrumentation sounds like it was scraped together at the last minute, and the vocals are truly terrible. The chorus and verse are both dreadfully boring, and right when it seemed like the album was getting better, this happened.
“Pool God” – The start of this song is spectacular. A nice little bit of background vocals followed by a great electronic beat that makes you think this track is going to be a thoroughly enjoyable five minutes. And then a minute passes, then another, and another. It just goes nowhere, with no build or change except for the serviceable bridge, making for a majorly disappointing song.
“I Used To Want To Die” – The final song of the album is pretty much just Pierce singing with very little instrumentation, and although I assume there’s some more personal and vulnerable meaning to this one, without context it’s just one minute of Pierce singing the phrase “I used to want to die, but now, I don’t want to die” over and over again. I’m sure that’s a good message and Pierce’s heart is in the right place, but not exactly A+ lyricism.
After listening to “Jonny” by The Drums, I haven’t gained much insight, joy, or passion, but to be fair, I haven’t lost any of those things either, so that’s a plus. Granted, there are people who will love what they were going for with the album, but I’m afraid I just don’t see the appeal. Despite the disappointment, I did learn one important lesson: Jonathan Pierce is really quite a poor singer.