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The Drums - Mommy Don’t Spank Me Music Album Reviews

The Drums - Mommy Don’t Spank Me Music Album Reviews
The Drums made their name on jaunty surf pop, but a collection of little-heard songs from their early years explores themes of longing and heartbreak that guided Jonny Pierce from the start.

Halfway through Mommy Don’t Spank Me, the new collection of early rarities and remixes from the Drums, frontman Jonny Pierce sings mournfully of a woman who so fears the world’s judgment that she has locked herself in her frigid studio. The situation is imagined, but the woman is not: The subject of “Wendy” is synth pioneer Wendy Carlos, and while Pierce and Drums co-founder Jacob Graham cherish her music, the song’s real concern is her queerness. When it was first released as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of 2011’s Portamento, “Wendy” was an outlier in a catalog of keenly melodramatic indie pop widely assumed to be about straight love. Not until a year later did Pierce and Graham talk openly about their homosexuality, casting their work—and the little-heard songs collected here—in a new light.

Pierce understood the fear of being exposed: Early on, when a prying journalist had asked if anyone in the Drums was gay, he’d dodged the subject. His reticence was understandable. The child of Pentacostal pastors from upstate New York, Pierce has described his childhood as abusive, recalling torturous years in religious school and the thrill of listening to secular music in secret. In 2005, a few years before the Drums’ breakout “Summertime!” EP—and four years before the earliest of these songs was written—an experience at New York City’s Pride parade sent Pierce into a crisis of conscience that led him temporarily back to his conservative family home. He’s now reclaimed that trauma as inspiration. Mommy Don’t Spank Me is a reference to a playground chant from his school days, a fittingly cheeky nod from a band that made its name delivering winking sex-and-death lyrics over jaunty surf rock. But there’s little winking in these songs. Without the burden of selling the Drums as cool-kid counterparts to their more buttoned-up indie rock contemporaries, the collection showcases Pierce’s precise writing (important for a band that proudly shirked musicianship) and makes clear the themes of longing and agonizing heartbreak that have been his lodestar since the start.

That’s not to say that these lovelorn tracks, written primarily in 2010 and 2011, lack polish. Even with a thin concept and just 10 repeated words, album opener “The Only Son” is a stunner, relying completely on Pierce’s commitment to sounding like he’s on the edge of bawling. His talent for doing the most with the least is on full display on “You’re the One That Makes Me Happy,” a minimalist love-is-war ballad with a drowsy doo-wop guitar that could soundtrack a post-breakup stumble down a moonlit boardwalk. There’s no earworm here to match “Let’s Go Surfing,” but “The New World” comes close. Its moody synths, jangly guitars, and soaring chorus epitomize the Drums at their best, and in a group of frequently glum songs, Pierce’s closing chant of “hold on, hold on” plays like a welcome message of allyship and hope.

Though matters of the heart are a constant, the only song that tiptoes toward contextualizing love as queer is “Instruct Me.” Written in 2009, soon after Pierce’s brief relapse into fundamentalism, it’s the collection’s oldest song and its most arresting. A plea from a man who is “too young” to be losing his virginity, the track is a ramshackle collage of raygun synths, mouth sounds, and a falsetto that’s shocking to hear from a guy who typically croons like Edwyn Collins. Though still vague, it hints at the more confessional songwriting Pierce would come to embrace as the sole member of the band on 2017’s Abysmal Thoughts and 2019’s Brutalism.

The second half of the collection is less compelling. Aside from a tremendous lo-fi rework of “Let’s Go Surfing” by now-defunct Brooklyn garage rockers Knight School, the compiled remixes serve both as a time capsule of indie electronica c. 2010—super-twinkly synths and other Merriweather Post Pavilion influences abound—and precursors to the dancefloor swerve of Pierce’s most recent singles. Twin Shadow transforms “Me and the Moon” into a patchwork of ’80s horns and exploding synths that sounds alarmingly like “Money for Nothing”; Matthew Dear stretches the same song into a seven-minute dirge. The Beat Connection remix of “Money” is the most exciting of the bunch, chopping up the song’s math rock guitars and resonant drums and rearranging them into a rollercoaster of a dance track.

In naming this collection Mommy Don’t Spank Me, Pierce imbues these songs with a sexual confidence and sense of humor that were decidedly in-progress at the time they were written. These qualities have only grown more pronounced in recent years, as the Drums have become the type of band to put a fetishistic pin-up on an album cover or write a self-actualization anthem culminating in “spit on your own dick, honey.” But the seeds of that bravado are here. Compiling them isn’t a means of putting them on a shelf; it’s Pierce’s way of bringing them into his present.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Drums - Mommy Don’t Spank Me Music Album Reviews The Drums - Mommy Don’t Spank Me Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, April 22, 2021 Rating: 5

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