Monday 12 July 2010

The Drums and "fakeness"

When I was younger, I used to reject bands because they seemed "fake" - commercial, insincere. Particularly those who are marketed as not writing their own music or playing their own songs, assuming they must be models thrown together by record producers (even if they aren't, such in the case of boybands like Take That). These days I like to think I'm a little more liberal in my attitudes towards pop music, but one band I saw at Glastonbury this year left a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

I quite like The Drums. They write fairly pleasant tunes with a wholly 80s style (seriously, how has it not occurred to anyone before now to rip off those 80s guitar effects a la the Cure or the Smiths?), lots of whistling and ridiculous haircuts.

It was fun, it was cute. The songs themselves aren't especially deep, but - and I don't know if this is just a symptom of me not being used to that guitar effect and slightly off-key vocals - took me a few listens to like them. What really weirded me out was the fact that they played with a backing track.

There's nothing wrong with having something pre-recorded for your live show per se. Both Two Door Cinema Club and Fanfarlo relied on recordings for some of the intros to their songs. But when the bass guitar is pre-recorded, something has gone wrong here. It wasn't a shortage of staff: during one song, one of the band members simply leaped around the stage swinging a tambourine. (That clip also illustrates just quite how horrendous the frontman's singing is. I have no problems with that, it sort of fits with their sound and he makes up for it with his posturing.) The bass wasn't the only instrument being filled in for: the catchy and fairly distinctive whistling also appeared to be pre-recorded.

So what's with the backing track, huh, The Drums? It's understandable if a band gets ahead of itself while recording an album, filling it with multiple layers that are fairly impossible to replicate live. Music is difficult to play, and if you guys, y'know, just want to play along to whatever you've already recorded, then - wait, no. These guys are PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS. We pay to see them PLAY MUSIC. When Peter, Bjorn and John (remember them? my next-door neighbour claims they're not quite as bad as their one-hit wonder, Young Folks, might have you think) do gigs, they perform that catchy whistling bit live. At Reading Festival one year, I saw a band consisting simply of a drummer and a guy playing a keytar with both hands while singing (and dancing quite wildly too). That's the level of commitment I expect from bands when I pay good money to see them live. I want every beating organ of their body to be focused on producing music.

Well. Perhaps that's a bit of tall order. Still, though The Drums may have the sound, the looks, the attitude and the hype, I don't genuinely think they have the talent. Who knows. I'd like to be proven wrong.

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