By Shane Willenborg
Artist: The Drums
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Artist Website: http://thedrums.com/
Brutalism is the triumphant return of the indie-pop outfit, and now solo act known as, the Drums. In 2017, Jonny Pierce became the sole member of The Drums after Jacob Graham announced he was leaving the band. With that behind Pierce, Brutalism is a much more revealing and intimate look into the personal life of the bands only remaining member.
Brutalism sheds all fear as Pierce bears his heart to the listener and recounts stories of abusive relationships and failed romances that refuse to let him sleep at night. The album’s second song, “Body Chemistry” exhibits this new theme in spades. Pierce ponders the source of his depression, cursing the chemical imbalance causing his feelings on a molecular level. “Body Chemistry” also shows off how big the band still sounds with only one member. With a melodic bass line, driving guitar and energetic drums it’s hard to imagine this band as a one piece.
“626 Bedford Avenue” tells the story of an unpleasant lover and the little things that should have been red flags for Pierce. A line that stands out to me, “I should have left when you laughed at my shoes,” says a lot about what we are willing to overlook for the sake of a romantic connection. The song goes on to describe how Pierce felt unable to leave this person for fear of never finding someone better, ultimately feeding into his self image.
The title track, “Brutalism,” continues the albums theme of upbeat and poppy timbre being countered by melancholic lyrics about the pitfalls of relationships. “Brutalism” warns of how too much desire “might be the thing that tears us apart.” Pierce narrates the times he would lay in bed holding his lover’s shirt (depicted as the albums artwork) as a visualization of his overbearing attachment to this person, likely leading to the pain caused by a future break up. While it’s easy to point out when a relationship is unhealthy from the outside, this song does a great job showing the audience just how intoxicating love can be.
“Loner” opens with a slick drum fill and satisfying guitar hook, but the song goes so much deeper, describing a problem that incredibly relatable. Pierce laments his lack of friends but feels held back by his own insecurities around new people, a catch-22 that I know myself and many other young adults struggle with. The instruments break for a moment before the lyrics come in, and sounds of a crowded party fill in the space. This perfectly sets the tone for a song about social awkwardness, as parties often expose those insecurities for people. As the vocals enter, Pierce debates talking to someone at the party, wondering if they would even have anything to talk about. Ultimately the narrator concludes that “I am too afraid, so I keep moving through the world.” There is a beautiful moment at the end of “Loner” where a choir sings along with Pierce on the chorus, symbolizing the seemingly endless number of people that feel the same way. I think Pierce wants the listener to know that even though you feel like a loner, you are far from alone.
“Kiss It Away” is another fantastic song that stands out on Brutalism. “Kiss It Away” once again plunges into the dangers of deep attraction and desire for someone else. The narrator’s attraction to their lover borders on dependency and is a revealing self evaluation of the grip that lost love has on Pierce. I see this song as Pierce denying his grief over a lost lover and clinging to his dependence on affection. The finality of this relationship is finally realized in the next track, “Nervous.”
“Nervous’ is a stripped down ballad, that stands out from the well produced and full sound of the rest of the album. This song serves as a post mortem look at the failed relationship “Kiss It Away” described. Pierce recounts how nervous he always felt around this person, afraid to instigate change even if that change would be a positive one. If the rest of this album was asking the question of why love didn’t work out, “Nervous” serves as the answer.
However, like any break up, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that eventually makes itself apparent. “Blip of Joy” returns to the up-beat rhythm of the rest of the album, and guides the listener through the moment that Pierce moves past his former relationship. “Blip of Joy” is a reminder that pain teaches and forces us to grow as people.
Brutalism is an imaginative, intimate and relatable album that journeys through all the innermost thoughts of the band’s last remaining member. Jonny Pierce carries on the torch of The Drums valiantly in what I believe is his best work.