October 28, 2009
Live Review: The Drums
Sunny newcomers brave the cold to enhance their growing reputation. Iceland Airwaves Festival, Reykjavik, art Museum, Friday, October 16
Hailing variously from Florida and NYC, The Drums are a long, long way from home tonight. Reykjavík is several degrees of latitude further north and several of Celsius further south than their origins. So how do their chirpy, chippy, whistle stop-start ditties on surfing go down in the world’s northernmost capital? This year, Airwaves is dominated by local talent such as Hjaltalín’s beautiful orchestral indie in a church by the lake, rising stars Retro Stefson, FM Belfast and the manic shouty rock of Reykjavík!. Surely our favourite new buzz band will struggle to thrive in a year when global recession means most bands are staying home. However, if you’ve been caught in The Drums’ slipstream of praise, you won’t be surprised that the majority of this stern whitewashed building the locals call the Art Museum go berserk from the moment they step onstage.
In fact, The Drums’ joyful yet austere surf-pop-via-Factory-Records sound (© the festival programme in a rare instance of descriptive clarity) is a perfect soundtrack to the kind of freezing hanging ten the islanders indulge in on the northern coast, and their onstage exuberance is enough to blow the chilly Arctic winds right back across the North Atlantic. While the beginnings of their set instills a slight feeling of unease – the reliance on the backing track, the nagging suspicion that the pair of doo-wop girls are miming the whistles, the fact the wooly-hatted onlooker next to us mutters the word ‘Alphabeat’ under his breath – the hit-packed second half thumps a metric ton down on the right side of the hype/hits seesaw.
‘Let’s Go Surfing’ has the crowd ripping open thermal jackets and furiously clapping gloved hands, and ‘Forever And Ever Amen’ in particular
is a shimmering treat.
While the girls provide the clap-hands kitsch and guitarist Adam Kessler bounces around like the ghost of The Spinto Band’s career on tambourine, it’s frontman Jonathan Pierce who really mesmerises. Coming across like a cross between Ian Curtis (if Joy Division were the house band at Pontin’s) and H from Steps, he’s a floppy bundle of energy in his tucked-in T-shirt, taking the cup-the-balls-and-work-that-shaft approach to mic handling as they ratchet the temp up exponentially. Brilliance creates its own climate, it turns out: expect the world to be banging to the beat of The Drums before the year’s out.
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