The Drums - Portamento
Portamento is the The Drums' second offering. Following last year's self-titled debut, the band has lost members, gained members and almost split due to stylistic differences. Phew, what a year! The title, a musical term denoting a vocal slide between two pitches, symbolises the change in the band and going from one point to another.
But it's not a huge, sliding departure from The Drums' debut, more of a subtle shuffle towards a more complex sound. The opening track 'Book of Revelations' is simple in its formula (ok, a contradiction to the sentence before), but urgent through its repetition. A chorus of ''Let it begin"'s heralds the start of the album, before the call to action: 'I believe that when we die, so let me love you tonight,' the upbeat tone reflecting the 'live for the moment' message of the song.
Next track 'Days' is a highlight of the album – the bass plucking away at your soul and Johnny Pierce's vocals just the right side of whining. You can really believe that he's been working hard to try to get the girl.
Yet by the next couple of tracks, 'What You Were' and 'Money', it all becomes a bit too formulaic. Simple and insistent, yet simplistic and repetitive. 'Hard to Love' is pleasant enough with its 80s synths, but the over use of 'uh-huh's makes it seem like The Drums have run out of ideas and don't know what else to say.
Changing tack, 'Searching for Heaven' is a darker, fuller epic sound but while the vox on 'Days' were just right, these are just wrong. The wailing is just horrible and the one relief is that the track was comes in at under three minutes with time to spare.
Thankfully The Drums are soon back on track with what they do better – summer tinged tracks but with a hint of darkness and mourning. 'I Need A Doctor' spasms and has a frenetic undercurrent, lying below soaring vocals which make it a not-entirely-easy listen and the album closes aptly named 'How It Ended' echoing the formula of simplicity and repetition.
So on the surface, Portamento is a collection of summery tracks and it appears to be more complex and darker than its debut. But dig a little deeper and there isn't much there. As a result, it takes more than a lot of listens for the tracks to stick with you and still leaves you wanting something more satisfying.