The Drums’ get the blues on Portamento

By Vivian Pencz

3/5 records

If The Drums’ self-titled debut was the surf-pop splash of last year’s summer, then post-punk-inspired Portamento is the band’s answer to the autumnal blues.

It’s the perfect soundtrack for back-to-school days of gazing out rain-dappled windows and scrawling unrequited love notes, although the album is far from perfect. Still, moments of pop genius tantalize here and there, namely:

“Days”, an exquisitely sad traipse down memory lane accompanied by a honeyed, Peter Hook-y bass line. “What You Were”, a Shangri-Las throwback with jingling guitars and dreamy harmonies, and Portamento’s first single “Money” is an adorable imitation of The Smiths with an infectious falsetto chorus (“I want to buy you something / but I don’t have any money”).

But after all that melodic giddiness, the album goes a bit off the rails with whiny downers like “Searching for Heaven”, which any idiot with a MicroKORG could come up with in five minutes, and “In the Cold”, the vocal equivalent of a horrible, self-pitying sob best rendered as, “Hnnnnnnnnnnngh.”

Luckily, you’re uplifted by the spacey crooning of “If He Likes It Let Him Do It”, the krautrock quirkiness of “I Need A Doctor” and the lively nostalgia of “How It Ended”, aching sweetly like The Cure.

Portamento is a frustrating album of stunners and clunkers, ingenuity and rehash. And while The Drums’ first album was a sunburst of charm and humour, Portamento reads as a woe-is-me diary entry of a promising but muddled talent.

Maybe it’s time for the band to put down the Fenders for a while and reinvent. You can’t go on being an imitation of The Smiths forever.

At some point you have to dance to the beat of your own drum.

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