The Drums a.k.a Jonny Pierce make their long-awaited return with album number six, Jonny.
Self-titled, and as the first record wholly recorded as a one-man band, self-obsessed. Jonny digs into the artist’s life with reflections on his childhood growing up in a cult-like religious community and his suffering trauma through the parental neglect he suffered. This new album clearly is a work of great catharsis to Pierce, while staying true to the sound and familiar melodic leanings of previous records.
And from a musicality point of view, this is where Jonny stumbles at times. While the lyrics and overall objective of the album helps the artist, they also hinder because it sounds so familiar, then repetitive and then, at times, boring. At 51 minutes and 15 tracks, it starts to feel somewhat indulgent and the series of musical interludes (Harms, Protect Him Always, I Used To Want to Die) could probably have been left out. Another couple of songs seem to blend into each other and while providing listenable indie, offer little difference in terms of theme or production, for example, Obvious and The Flowers.
That said, there is plenty here for fans of The Drums to bop on. Opener, I Want It All brings big synths and a pulsating drum machine rhythm complemented by a familiar jangly lead guitar. The repeated refrain of the title is of yearning while elsewhere he reflects on his parental relationship and ongoing hope to see that relationship exist, even now: I was pretending that you loved me…my own private torture / I keep a door open.
In the following song, Isolette takes the cold setting and powerlessness of infancy and creates a manic earworm, which heightens the sense of being both isolated then and coping with that same anxiety in the here and now.
Indeed, the album art of Pierce naked in his father’s home workspace (taken while his estranged parents were out) is symbolic of his defenceless childhood self and his reclaimed strength as an adult.
Songs like Plastic Envelope, the album’s standout track continues his rebirth in adulthood as he grapples with relationships, not always successfully but most importantly to a killer hook and chorus. It’s one of many, if not all, songs on Jonny where Pierce’s heart is firmly on his sleeve and emotions run freely.
A pleasant alternative is introduced through his collaboration with hip-hop artist Rico Nasty who provides a welcome female voice on Dying. Her voice represents the other side of the coin as he grapples with the intricacies of building relationships with others while still piecing himself back together.
For fans of The Drums the earnest and at times brutally honest portraits of life will provide plenty of fascination. And even for casual listeners, each vignette provides an interesting line or two. At times, Jonny can be accused of oversharing and not everyone listens to indie records for such introspection. However, the album’s pros; the signature reverb-laden vocals, dreamy guitars, modular synths and beats, also provide plenty of aural pleasure.