Concerts Concerts The Drums and the Oohs and the Ahhs

The Drums and the Oohs and the Ahhs

The Drums at The Phoenix
The Drums
Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, ON
April 27, 2012

Review by: Tyler Crick
Photos by: Adam Pulicicchio

We joined a full house at The Phoenix to catch the American indie pop act take the stage.

The Drums

The Drums seem to have a complicated pedigree, with a sound that resonates as though they took The Smiths, The Beach Boys, and David Bowie to the beach for some surfing. Of course, they have a song called “Let’s go Surfing,” (self-reflexive maybe), but behind their easy breezes are some sad waves.

Supporting their newest album Portamento, they opened the night with “What You Were,” a song whose playful and upbeat instrumentation takes on a different hue when lead Johnny Pierce hits his highest notes and you realize he’s singing about dying of a heart break. All the while, on the wall behind them, “The Drums” was lit up in large lettering and was their sole stage prop, modest but also indicative of the level of production these guys have hit, playing a packed concert at The Phoenix.

With only two full length albums behind them, they seem to have adjusted well to the rocker persona, with Pierce especially giving the crowd the kind of lively, dancing performance that only a singer without instrument can, arms swaying all over. As pierce informed us, their second song of the set was about his dead best friend, yet featured poppy beats, harmonizing, and plenty of oohs and ahhs. I can only attribute the darkness of their surf pop to their self-stated influences of both Joy Division and The Smiths - a sound that seems to work for them, drawing an appreciative crowd consisting of both pouty thirty-somethings and dancing youngsters. Everyone clapped along during new track “How it Ended,” while an eerie synth wall wailed in the background, breaking up what may have otherwise been a somewhat textbook somber pop song.

The band sounded great the whole night, not even leaving much room to question their delivery, while The Phoenix provided its usual clean sound. Speaking of, the experience of “I Need A Doctor” live is fairly unique when compared to the studio version. It had an extra element of glitchy-ness, matching the subject matter of mental illness, and Pierce’s “shhhhh” carried a lot more resonance when his microphone made it sound like he was in your ear.

Pulling out a bass near the end of their set, The Drums ended on a very strong note, changing their pace a bit for some extra punch and showing off some more of that Joy Division influence. While the closer “Down By The Water” marked the first break in form of the night (slowed down and full of bass and moody synthesizer), I was most struck by the different sound of first encore track “Searching For Heaven.” The raw, 70's electro-inspired synth work made me wonder if they’d been possessed by the ghost of Tangerine Dream, which saw me less surprised to later find out that Johnny Pierce and Jacob Graham were fans of Kraftwerk at a young age. It seemed like an unlikely song to start an encore with, but I would be really happy with The Drums if they played more songs that leaned in this direction. In any case, even if they just keep sadly surfing, I imagine they will continue to be very enjoyable to see.

 

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