It’s rare to fall in love with a song before the first verse even starts. Pop songs are scientifically engineered to grow inside of you, like a flowering lilac, or an alien Chestburster. But The Drums “Blood Under My Belt,” the first single from their new album Abysmal Thoughts goes right for the heart in pure auditory pleasure from the first guitar jangle. It’s the kind of song you want to listen to a thousand times in a row, trying to dissect why it makes you feel so damn good.
It’s a tough act to follow, but for the most part, Abysmal Thoughts carries the torch well throughout. Founder Jonny Pierce wrote every song and plays all the instruments, but each sound is so distinct that one might think a whole mess of session players are packed in the studio with him. The resulting sound is simultaneously lo-fi and electro-dreamy, as though Morrissey found a magical reverb unit that gave him three wishes (“Mirror,” “I’ll Fight For Your Life” and “If All We Share (Means Nothing)”). There’s such a distinctly Britpop sound here, such elegantly plucked melodies (“Head of the Horse,” in particular, uses London as set dressing), that it’s hard to believe it was recorded in Upstate New York — “Are U Fucked” even reaches back in the vault with threads of sound reminiscent of Sgt Pepper’s.
On the whole, Pierce’s delicately layered instrumentals give the album a soft, airy feel in a delicious contrast against sharp guitars, which keeps it from getting bogged down in hipster self-indulgence. “Heart Basel,” for example, is a confectionary tune masking lyrics that are eye-rollingly dull in their attempt to be deep, and “Shoot the Sun Down” makes excellent use of the gentle echoes that seems to reverberate across the album’s twelve tracks.
The album does have a few low points. With the departure of Jacob Graham, Pierce didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of, to say “What if we tried this instead?” He might have, for example suggested that they not repeat “I put a blanket over my face” for the majority of the otherwise charming “Shoot The Sun Down,” and possibly vetoed “Rich Kids,” the seemingly obligatory snark about the Instagram generation. (Don’t bite the hand that brunches with you, Jonny.)
Don’t let the title fool you. Abysmal Thoughts is a fun, lovely record, radiating sunshine in every melody and shadows in the lyrics. It’s whole and complex and captivating, a treasure chest of an album in which you’ll find something different and unique hiding within each listen.