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A Review of The Drums’ Latest Album, Johnny, Offers a Moment of Catharsis

By Maryjane Perez | 23 October, 2023

If you like The Cure and The Smiths, then The Drums are a band you might like. I discovered The Drums two months ago and immediately fell in love with the music. The group, once consisting of members Johnathan Pierce, Jacob Graham, Adam Kessler, and Connor Hanwick, is now more of a solo project for Pierce. The Drums' album Johnny serves as an insight into Pierce’s experiences with childhood trauma, self-discovery, healing, and everything in between.

“16 songs birthed out of my deepest wounds and out of my wildest joys. When I listen back to it, I hear my soul reflected back at me. I think you’ll find yourself somewhere in it too,” shares Pierce in an Instagram post announcing the release of the album.

True to Pierce’s statement, I found fragments of myself in the album. It is a powerful thing to be able to connect with music on a deeper level. Often, we find a voice for the experiences and emotions we struggle to articulate through the songs we listen to. This album is no exception.

Jonny album cover
@JonnyPierce on Instagram

The album starts off strong with “I Want It All” a song that is laced with jubilant synths, delicately strained vocals, and melancholic lyricism. It is unclear who Pierce is speaking to when he sings “I was pretending that you loved me / Did you love me?” but the impact of the lyrics are gut wrenching nonetheless. His longing for love and reassurance resonates deeply.

“Isolette” is a punchier and danceable track, but lyrically echoes the loneliness discussed in track one. Pierce expresses his struggles with trust resulting in isolation. “I am so afraid of doing all the wrong things in my life / In my life, nobody taught me / How to trust myself or trust anyone.”

Seamlessly flowing into the next couple of tracks, “I’m Still Scared” and “Better,” Pierce maintains the ability to mask haunting lyrics with a euphoric sound. In the former track, there is a distinct use of distorted guitars and squeaky synths. In the latter, Pierce returns to the use of sunshine-y guitars and upbeat bass.

Track five, “Harms” hints at Pierce’s strained relationship with his mother and how it has impacted him. Featuring minimal instrumentals and subtle backup vocals, this song creates a raw and intimate moment between Pierce and his listeners. “I’m angry for you / And I’m angry for me.” He then goes on to sing about how the lack of his mother’s love shows up in his life. It is a vulnerable glimpse into his pain.

“Little Johnny” is a sweet, comforting, and stripped back ode to Pierce’s younger self. In this track, he grants his child self permission to feel freely and offers a couple of affirmations. Some standout lyrics include “I’m proud of you for all you’ve done” and “And you built a life where there was no life.” It is no easy feat to overcome the hardships in life; this song is a gentle reminder to always give grace and treat everyone with kindness.

jonny pierce holds a keyboard while looking down melancholy
@thedrumsofficial on Instagram

Returning to the groove of the first few songs of the album, “Plastic Envelope” explores themes of heartache and loneliness. The repetition of “alone” emphasizes the depth of Pierce’s feelings of solitude. This song flows into “Protect Him Always” so seamlessly that you’d miss it if you weren’t paying attention. It is a beautifully orchestrated song in which Pierce acknowledges his younger self once again. The interlude ends with “I’m healing as fast as I can, I’m so sorry.”

“Be Gentle” and “Green Grass” stray away from the sounds of previous tracks, instead offering soothing drums, slow guitar strums, serene vocals, and soft harmonies. “Dying” also strays from the typical sound in a different way. Its glistening synths and sometimes whiny vocals create a utopian feeling. Most surprisingly, this track features Rico Nasty with vocals and lyrics that starkly contrast Pierce’s.

As we near the end of the album, we get to “Obvious” which is one of my favorites from the album because it makes me want to sing along and dance around. This song diverts from the album's darker tones and opts for bright and breezy lyrics and sparkling guitars. It gives us a look into how love can be transformative with lyrics like “Oh, I couldn’t say right then but you’ve changed my whole life / And now, baby / Your love is gold / And you deserve to be told.” It’s a refreshing and hopeful reminder that there is always good despite the bad.

“The Flowers” is also a happier listening experience all about the impact of love and companionship. It’s a testament to Pierce’s evolving perspective on his experiences. Notably, there is a shift in the way he speaks about feelings of solitude. “And I might be alone some other time in my life / But I’m not tonight.” It seems like Pierce is allowing himself to be more present and accepting of the love that he currently has rather than dwelling on the love he lacked.

The last three tracks “Teach My Body,” “Pool God,” and “I Used to Want to Die” further encapsulate themes of healing, self discovery and personal growth. In the final track, Pierce confesses in delicately layered vocals, “I used to want to die / But now I don’t want to die.” His willingness to be honest and vulnerable is both brave and inspiring.

From start to finish, ‘Johnny’ takes us through Pierce’s journey through his trauma and his emergence with a new sense of self. It is an album that should not be skimmed over because every song is essential to the overarching story. Its captivating melodies and thought-provoking lyrics will linger in my mind for months to come.


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