When compared to the influx of 6-plus member acts, there are a lot of advantages to being in a duo. They’re easier to mobilize, and there are fewer voices diluting the overall sound. There are even more benefits if each member has a history that extends beyond the band. Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham have been friends since they were children, and have been making music together as The Drums for the greater part of the decade. Having known each other for so long, their songwriting skills exist as a shared language between two people that have grown up and learned their craft together. On Portamento and their earlier self-titled release, the band were very much a cohesive unit, and neither voice was more present. Next week they return with Encyclopedia, an album in the spirit of their earlier releases but willing to take more chances.
The album opens with “Magic Mountain”, which builds with a steam whistle sound then quickly shifts to an angular, herky-jerky guitar and drum combo. The chorus abruptly changes to double time, giving the listener the impression that the song could collapse at any moment. It does, at the halfway mark, where a pregnant pause gives way to the rest of the song. This is Pierce and Graham at their most adventurous, cramming a myriad of influences into a four minute song. It’s also one of the strongest on the album.
In an interview with Spin, Pierce suggested that he and Graham were feeling “angry, confused, and alone when we made this album, and we wanted to be very honest this time aorund, even if being honest made people uncomfortable”. The song starts off with a pulsing, Suicide-esque keyboard, before suddenly transforming into an frentic danse-punk beat, and alternating between the two for the remainder of the song. In keeping with Pierce’s suggestion that Encyclopedia might cause some discomfort, the chorus (and recurring theme of the song) is “they might hate you, but I love you, and they can go kill themselves”. It doesn’t come off as jarring as it sounds on paper, and is an honest first-person take on angsty youthful romance.
Encyclopedia is a logical extension of Portamento. The Drums manage to shape their palette and introduce new ideas with ease, releasing one of their strongest albums to date.