Very few records approach perfection in the world of pop music—perfection in this case meaning nary a wasted note or excess, and a purity that seems almost divinely inspired—but the Drums’ new album Encyclopedia is absolutely a contender.
The third full album to be released under the Drums’ name, Encyclopedia aggressively combines opposites to its very core: mechanical rhythms overdubbed with high-pitched background vocals evoking theremin-infused sci-fi film scores of the late ‘50s; joyous, enthusiastic melodies coupled with lyrics of depressing starkness; and—in the tradition of some of the most far-reaching krautrock bands of many decades ago—a peculiar sense of simultaneous motion and stasis, of going here, there and everywhere without ever leaving your chair.
Yep, just like that!
The Drums these days are the core members that have been there from the start—Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham, a pair of colorful, life-long American pals who’ve managed to create something new and guide it to very new heights on Album Three. Take the spritely, bouncy “U.S. National Park,” tucked away mid-album, in which singer Pierce provides this lyrical accompaniment: “They say life is beautiful / But what does that mean / I don’t want to say anything / That would make you believe in nothing.” Or the stunning “Let Me,” to my ears Encyclopedia’s finest track, recalling the Velvet Underground’s “Lady Godiva’s Operation” thematically but bolstered by this distinctly Drumsian lyric: “They might hate you / But I love you / And they can go kill themselves.” And all this atop a rhythmic synth vamp decked by an ethereal, high-pitched, Forbidden Planet-esque choral background. Yow.
Thus we were immensely pleased to host the Drums for a performance and interview session at Yahoo’s studio, which went about as well as we thought it might. They were exceptional. There are very few bands out there playing with a vision and a sound that is distinctly their own, but the Drums do all that and much more. They are remarkable, apparently as a matter of habit, and you really need to see them.