"Abysmal Thoughts" stands as The Drums' most memorable album to date.ANTI-, 2017
8.0 / 10
With the fourth album from The Drums, the former four-piece whittles down to the solo project of frontman Jonny Pierce. Instead of signaling the demise of the band, it sounds like a new beginning of sorts. Pierce wrote all of the songs on “Abysmal Thoughts”. Piere played all of the instruments as well. And it ain’t bad. Actually, it’s really damn good. While most will remember The Drums for their 2010 single, “Let’s Go Surfing”, “Abysmal Thoughts” could be the band’s most memorable album. This is largely due to its autobiographical nature. Jonny Pierce bares his soul on the new album as he discusses agony, heartbreak, and his sexuality.
Pierce’s backstory is quite fascinating but also tragic. Pierce grew up with pastors for parents, who made his life a living hell (ha! religious pun). The reason? Pierce is gay, and his parents only saw fit to persecute him rather than understand him. They subjected him to conversion therapy and other abuse that would scar him in his adulthood. One of the most powerful songs on “Abysmal Thoughts” is “Head of the Horse”. The title is a reference to his childhood home in the small New York town Horsehead. Unsurprisingly, this song touches on some of the damage his parents inflicted. Pierce reflects throughout, “He hugged me when I came home,” referring to better times with his father. Later, he drops this bombshell:
Your sister got married fourteen times,
But if you fall in love, son; that’s a crime.
Well, I fell in love and I told him I was happy.
My dad hugged me and said this would be the last hug.
Although a breezy indie pop gem, “Head of the Horse”, conveys a nostalgic sorrow. It’s one of the heaviest punches to the gut that you’ll hear all year. Much of the same rings true for many of the album’s songs. They all come from a place of sadness, yet the music often suggests otherwise or at least puts on a happy face. There’s something childlike about the music. Many of its melodies sound as if pulled from a children’s television program. Their dainty textures providing a safe space for Pierce’s elegant vocals. Maybe it’s an escape from the pain of his past.
“Are U Fucked” suggests that things aren’t going well, yet there’s also something sexual in Pierce’s delivery of the titular question. His breathy singing invites a squelching saxophone to throw a red veil over the room’s lighting. This becomes one of the album’s catchiest songs as a result. “Let’s Go Surfing” gets an update it seems with “Rich Kids”. Pierce targets the kids you would see celebrating their sweet sixteens on MTV. “Rich kids/ You make me sick kids/ I bet you’re dickheads,” he sings. Or maybe it’s a swipe at Trump’s kids?
Although much of “Abysmal Thoughts” comes from a dark place, it’s undeniably catchy. It also lets Pierce shine brighter than he ever has before. He steps into the spotlight as an important voice for the LGBT community, following behind previous powerful releases from Arca and Perfume Genius. You need to hear this.