The first things I was fond of with Abysmal Thoughts was the title and its artwork. I don’t know; you’re forgiven for probably mistaking it for looking like a rap/grime album if you haven’t heard The Drums before, with its stylistic ‘model’ on the cover and the font used. This band is responsible for one of my favourite musician quotes ever: “if reverb didn’t exist we wouldn’t have bothered trying to start a band”. And, in a way, that quote resonates with their recent release, Abysmal Thoughts, in addition to stark influences returning from the first two albums such as The Beach Boys and Vampire Weekend. Whilst Encylopedia was an entirely different tune altogether; Abysmal Thoughts is a successful return to the sounds of The Drums’ freshman years, sounding fresh out of the 1980s in 2017.
The Drums like to whine a lot in their music (and that’s putting it pleasantly – I like to whine), which comes as not much of a surprise when you consider that Morrissey, of all people, inspires the principal songwriter of the band. Morrissey himself has been spotted at various Drums gigs, along with Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. The album title Abysmal Thoughts makes way too much sense now. Although, with bands such as Beach Fossils and DIIV on the rise at the moment, what do The Drums do to dissimulate themselves from other bands partaking in the resurgence of Surf Rock?
It has to be the lyrical play that digresses Abysmal Thoughts from other albums of similar ilk: despite the major, happy-sounding melodies and latching riffs that last throughout the duration of songs, some of the key topoi in the band’s music is pretty sombre. The opening song, Mirror, speaks of the uncertainty of identity; Heart Basel – despite sounding relatively cheery and uplifting – is an allegory for having a mid-life crisis, with elements of mental health degradation present; and Rich Kids, well, just berates Rich Kids (and I love it). It’s all pretty ‘depressing’, as you would, but it doesn’t render your heat-strings too much because it’s just way too catchy. Some tracks, on the other hand, don’t follow the melodious fever, such as Are U Fucked and If We All Share (Means Nothing), but they signify a notion of differentiation throughout the LP, which is necessary and most welcome.
Abysmal Thoughts carries a lot of emotional baggage but wraps it up in a way that discloses it from the medium of art. It’s no different than listening to a Smiths song or a Radiohead track, but is more accessible to general audiences that complain that the former bands ‘sound depressing’. I’d have no trouble recommending this album to anybody; although I would strongly suggest it to a nihilist or somebody in a terrible mood: you can listen to it while having abysmal thoughts without your thoughts worsening. Pretty handy for neurotics like me.