January 21, 2010
Live Review: The Drums/Surfer Blood
Bowery Ballroom, New York Wednesday, January 13
Try to put your muso aspirations aside momentarily and don’t worry about appearing cool to your mates for a second either; just answer NME this. When you were nodding your head like a sexually frustrated chimp to the Animal Collective album last year, did you ever think, “Yeah, but I wish they had more tunes”? And when you were trying to bust a move to the Dirty Projectors’ befuddling 43/29 time-signatures at your local club night, didn’t you, even for a second, wonder “why can’t they write a song that you don’t need a maths degree to dance to?”
If the answer is yes (and we know it is) you needn’t worry because if Surfer Blood and The Drums have anything to do with it, 2010 is going to see the return of alluring simplicity, of mind-invading catchiness, of C, D and G to the indie world. After all, you can stroke your chin as much as you want, but there’s nothing in the world that beats a dynamite guitar-pop song and tonight, the Bowery Ballroom is flooded with them.
The Drums may have been saddled with all the hype, but it’s Surfer Blood who actually look the most nervous. They shuffle onstage, mumble quietly between songs and don’t particularly look like they’re enjoying themselves, but in truth, the power-pop punch of their set still hits home even without those extra frills. The likes of ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Floating Vibes’ sound like classic Weezer without quite the same level of dysfunction and rampant self-hatred. Most of their superb debut ‘Astro Coast’ gets an airing, but the Florida five-piece also find time to break out a new, unnamed number which begins with a spindly guitar motif but builds up to a buoyant union of Aztec Camera and Pavement. It hints at the potential bounty of irresistible gems this band still have up their sleeves.
The Drums, meanwhile, don’t just hint at their future – they make a point to get there ahead of schedule. Even though the adulatory ink spilled on their debut mini-LP has barely dried, the band’s eagerness to move forward is all too obvious, starting as they do with the sombre and dramatic opener ‘It Will All End In Tears’ – a stark but beautiful antidote to the idea that these four are chirpy chappies who sing about sunshine and surfing all the time. It’s a new emotional tack that is evident in the standout newbie, ‘Book Of Stories’ which finds frontman Jonathan Pierce using every bit of his Morrissey-adoring soul to lament “I thought that life would get easier/Instead it’s getting tougher/Instead it’s getting colder”.
Their musical Anglophilia is as rampant as ever – ‘Skipping Town’ for instance could not sound more like The Cure if they all instantly gained 50 pounds and started to wear bits of hedgerow as hair-pieces. But it’s clear that they steal from the bands they do, not out of ugly ambition, but out of star-crossed admiration.
A version of ‘Don’t Be A Jerk Johnny’ with Peggy Wang from [a]The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart[/b] providing guest vocals almost sends feyness levels off the scale, but end with ‘Forever And Ever, Amen’ – a dance-tinged track that’s a remix away from being a Friday night floor-filler. Ample demonstration that the band who’ve made us smile so much lately are nothing compared to the band that will leave us breathless and heartbroken in the months to come.
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