abysmal thoughts

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Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Under the Ice,” “Blood Under the Belt,” “Head of the Horse,” “Heart Basel”

In case you haven’t noticed, mom jeans are back. Actually, it seems a multitude of styles hearkening from the past have seeped their way into modern popular culture. A slew of indie bands with a throwback sound have sprung up as well—Beach Fossils, Surfer Blood, and Girls, just to name a few. Among these is The Drums, project of singer-songwriter Jonny Pierce, who has been releasing retro-inspired pop melodies since 2010. After a bit of a hiatus, Pierce is back with “ABYSMAL THOUGHTS,” an album that proves that jangly, melancholic pop never truly goes out of fashion.


The album’s title is a topic of discussion in itself. “ABYSMAL THOUGHTS”—presumably referencing Friedrich Nietzche’s philosophical novel THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA—exists in quotations. Considering its source, it’s a bit of a dense point of inspiration for a pop album. But one must remember that these are not literal abysmal thoughts we are talking about, but rather the concept of them, hence the quotations. Pierce speculates on these abyss-like thoughts through a series of references to personal heartbreak and identity-crisis. “What does it take for you to believe that I have changed?,” Pierce asks on the standout track “Blood Under My Belt,” bursting with surf-tinged, early-’80s energy. It’s as much of a plea as a question, and it becomes clear early on that Pierce is grappling with unresolved emotions through his lyrics. This being The Drums’ fourth studio album, Pierce has had time to his perfect his songwriting style, and it shows. Pierce has the ability to articulate his feelings unapologetically. Growing up in an ultra-religious household, Pierce pinpoints the hypocrisy shown towards him by his family for being homosexual. Quoting his father on “Head of the Horse,” Pierce delivers lines such as, “Your sister got married fourteen times / But if you fall in love, son, that’s a crime.”


With weighty subject material, it’s wise that Pierce knows never to leave his listeners down in the dumps. The mid-album highlight “Under the Ice” is snappy and refreshing. Pierce’s voice flutters over a crisp guitar riff. It’s one of the sweeter melodies on the album, even though its lyrics are a bit blue. “If you see me gently smiling baby /

You should know I’m just trying not to cry” is sung with complete nonchalance. The album often employs this happy-sad complex heavily prevalent in The Cure’s discography. Most songs are in direct contradiction of themselves, marrying catchy melodies to dejected lyrics. A welcomed exception to this is the peppy “Your Tenderness,” in which he repeatedly sighs, “Your tenderness is filling me with hope.” Such moments as these are essential from writing Pierce off as a sadboy whose musings never rise out of the gloom.


A first listen to the album will immediately conjure comparisons to vintage acts a la The Smiths, and here lies one of the album’s strengths as well as its most notable weaknesses. When you try to incorporate seminal influences, there’s the reward of creating music that feels instantly familiar. However, the bevy of horns, strings, cowbells, and whistles (all played by Pierce, along with every other instrument on the record) at times feel recycled. It’s like thrift shopping—for every kickass leather jacket, there’s a crocheted vest that doesn’t fit quite right. Luckily, there’s enough fresh material in the lyrics to keep the album anchored in the here and now.

Through The Drums, Jonny Pierce continues to deliver quality nostalgic pop that is sure to please fans new and old. On “ABYSMAL THOUGHTS,” he offers us yet another musical affirmation that yes, it is okay to smile while crying.

Verdict: Recommend

Claire can be found at a coffee shop/craft fair/woodland forest near you. Follow her as she attempts to craft playlists to soundtrack every moment of her life as if it were an indie film.

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