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25th October 2011

Album: The Drums – Portamento

Like your music bland and samey? You’ll love this.

The Drums
Moshi Moshi/Island Records

2 out of 5

Just over a year since the release of their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut, The Drums are back with Portamento, their palpably unremarkable second effort. Given the turbulence of the band’s recent past (losing a guitarist, and dealing with the upheaval that came with it), you might expect Portamento to be musically a very different record to The Drums. It isn’t: it merely sounds like a moodier re-run.

Despite this, ‘Book of Revelation’ is still a strong opener, retaining the melancholy catchiness and infectious bass of their first album. “I’ve seen the world, and there’s a heaven and there’s no hell”, lead singer Jonathan Pierce assures us during the chorus; unfortunately, listening to the album’s other 11 tracks arguably proves the opposite. By the time we reach the fourth track ‘Money’, the album’s first single, the songs already begin to blend into a bland musical sameness. Although the slower tempo and softer, less frantic vocals of ‘Searching For Heaven’ do introduce some progression, the band then revert back to their usual quick, poppy style for the remaining five tracks. ‘If He Likes It Let Him Do It’, with its Morrissey-esque vocals (heard throughout the album, most obviously in ‘Money’), quickly becomes annoying, and Pierce’s whining voice on ‘In the Cold’ doesn’t take long to start grating.

The word ‘portamento’ is an Italian term denoting a vocal slide between two pitches, but despite its connotations with change there is little to be found here. Few of the 12 tracks on Portamento are actively bad, but most are lazy and uninventive, which makes the album a frustrating listen. Pierce’s lyrics in ‘Hard to Love’ perhaps sum up the album well; “I would never hate you, but you’re hard to love” – except in this case, it’s very hard.

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