The Drums, XOYO, London


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The Independent Culture

Few have exercised the hype machine quite so much as the Drums in late 2009. Long before the release of their first album, the strength of a debut EP - the self-produced, Moshi Moshi-released Summertime! - propelled them into the BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll, while the NME placed them on the front cover.

Inevitably, such success produced a backlash. Despite the strength of their self-titled debut album - which included both Summertime!’s ubiquitous Lets Go Surfing as well as moodier, more introspective offerings – they remained, to some, little more than fey indie scenesters borrowing tricks from their oft-cited influenced: Orange Juice, the Smiths and The Wake.

And borrow they do. From front man Johnny Pierce’s waving of the imaginary gladioli to the jingle jangle of their Smithsy melodies, they are unashamedly retro. But they’re also a class act. Their live shows are triumphant affairs - and Pierce’s ability to pen a chorus catchier than the common cold is demonstrated when, midway through their set at XOYO, they break into Money. The first single from their newly-released second album Portamento, it engulfs the crowd in a frenzied singalong.

It’s a reaction repeated throughout. Here, in London’s fashionable Shoreditch, they are in their spiritual homeland. Like many a US band, they’ve found themselves embraced more warmly on this side of the Atlantic. “It all began for us here,” acknowledges Pierce from the stage. A recent change in line-up has seen two new members added, replacing guitarist Adam Kessler – yet the dynamic that distinguished their early shows (and kick-started that albatross of hype) remains.

Material from the new album is deftly mixed with more established tracks, and at no point is one cut adrift in a sea of unfamiliar. Money aside, the best reception of the night is reserved for the 2010 track Forever and Ever Amen, which assumes a dance anthem fullness it lacks on record. They don’t play Let’s Go Surfing; they haven’t for some time. Amidst the hooks and the synths, the Drums yearn for a kind of an eighties seriousness that such off-the-cuff numbers don’t allow. It’s a shame, but it isn’t the end of the world. As we file towards the exits, Money’s irrepressible refrain – I’d like to buy you a present/ But I don’t have any mon-ey/ No I don’t have any mon-ey – can still be heard on the lips of the delighted crowd.