First impressions of this high profile live offering from The Drums is the disappointing tone of pretension heavily present in the air. The Drums are perhaps known for their slightly foppish hipster audience (yours truly included), but the sheer proliferation of posers, taking innumerate photos of themselves and not actually engaging with the music is somewhat disparaging.
It is especially disappointing because the band do a good set. The group are clearly seasoned performers, what with Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham having been in members of Goat Explosion, Elkland and Horse Shoes, all of which toured the US extensive in a previous life. The performance is calm and composed, yet highly accomplished musically, with subtle hints of something esoterical, ethereal and exotic. There is a quiet element of glamour to the way the group is presented especially. The lighting in particular is very interesting – there are lots of soft, atmospheric spot positioned so the group are often silhouetted against a backdrop of red velvet and curling smoke, with only the tops of their heads lit up like spun gold. None of this is accidental, and is clearly part of the general vibe of subtle, aloof artistry present throughout all aspects of their work.
The group showcase their new line-up in London tonight; having dealt with the exit of Adam Kessler at the end of 2010, The Drums have employed three new additions to the band, including members from We Are Scientists and Violens. Much of the performance, at least in a visual sense however is focused around lead singer Jonathan Pierce. Whilst sonically the group are fairly uniform, visually one cannot help but become enraptured with the quirk of Pierce’s approach. Morrissey is a clear influence on the general disposition of his performance (and to that point, the band’s music generally), which is full of wistful, aloof gestures and a vague air of melancholic nostalgia.
The literal sound quality is disappointing at times, with the bass guitar and bass drum very heavy, and the synths initially virtually inaudible. It does get better throughout the performance, and finally becomes perfect during the encore, where the band exhibit a very composed, intense synth outro, created on an analogue rack mount, full of sweeping, atmospheric sounds in original timbres. Interestingly the sound throughout the group’s performance is much more thick and heavy than anything on record. The Drums’ recorded work is known for its light, almost tinny sound, but here there is far more sonic depth and gravitas, especially within the drum kit.
Altogether then an interesting performance, full of honed musicianship, quiet magnetism and elegiac subtleties. There were some rumblings from the crowd regard the group’s disregard of their most popular track Let’s Go Surfing, but that song is over two years old, and at times such as this a band is well within their rights to give the audience what they need to listen to, and not necessarily what they want to hear.