Music might be a coping mechanism
The Drums’ Brutalism spills with genre-altering pop hits that will change the direction of the band going forward. If you comb through the electronic beats and catchy guitar strumming, Jonny Pierce’s post-divorce lyrical honesty seems refreshingly genuine and perhaps out of place. But The Drums’ mastery of musical contradiction–matching dance melodies to emotionally vulnerable lyrics sung in a pop pitch–might be what makes their music irreplaceable.
Jonny Pierce reels us in on intro track “Pretty Cloud” with a bassline of an electronic beat keeping pace. The track’s musical bridge plays a voicemail from a French man thanking Pierce for his messages and his sensitivity, while the chorus sings an ignorant sense of bliss. There’s nothing like “Body Chemistry” to uncover the bedded denial of emotional conflict. Pierce’s overt depression finds its cure in simple pleasures: “I know some good luck and a good fuck/ a nice glass of wine and some quality time/ is gonna make you mine.” Pierce admits that his sexual chemistry is not off, but maybe his unforgiving mental chemistry is.
“626 Bedford Avenue” and “Brutalism” dance playfully between heartbreak and recovery, mimicking the back-and-forth between being okay and suffering. Pierce’s unapologetic lyrical vulnerability in “Loner” is coupled with quick-pick guitar and live drums that add a pop-punk edge. This track will not be lost on its listeners. Pierce invites us to sing along with him as the chorus exposes his internal conflict: “And I don’t want to be alone/ and I am scared of all the people in the world/ and I have never had a home/ I am too afraid so I keep moving through the world.”
The surreal aura in “I Wanna Go Back” makes for a beautiful ballad, as shimmering amp-feedback pleasantly frames the emotional lyrics. Pierce’s nostalgic tone seeps into the simple melody at 2:13, chord progressions filling the emotional void and sparking rays of joyous music. For those fans missing The Drums’ previous hits, “Kiss It Away” plays into the same surf-punk vibe from “Kiss Me Again” on their 2014 album Encyclopedia. The songs are virtually the same with a soft change in timbre and an obvious change in Jonny Pierce’s emotional disposition. The following track “Nervous” is perfectly fragile, with a simple melody accompanied by Pierce’s lyrical reflection learning to let go.
Although distinctly different from the rest of The Drums’ discography, Brutalism is undoubtedly the best collection of tracks the band has released. Closing track “Blip of Joy” wraps the album with a cohesive, telling message: healing is not a perfect process, and it doesn’t happen without relapse. If you listen to Brutalism with the same open heart that Jonny Pierce sings with, you might dance a little, cry a little and learn a lot.