"Let's Go Surfing" might be the Drums' signature tune, but it's an outlier in their discography. While that 2009 debut single was a carefree slice of sunshine, their output has grown increasingly dark over the years, eschewing the beach in favour of mopey new wave anthems about heartbreak and loneliness.
On Abysmal Thoughts, frontman Jonny Pierce — now operating the Drums as a solo vehicle — attempts to have it both ways. On the one hand, he's done away with the heavy riffs and sinister sonic leanings of 2014's Encyclopedia, retreating back to the sloppy guitar grooves and lo-fi minimalism of his peppier early work. On the other hand, Abysmal Thoughts is thoroughly joyless, with its far-too-long songs bogged down by sighs, gasps and sullen glumness.
Single "Blood Under My Belt" gets the balance right: it's bouncy and catchy, with yearning lyrics that reveal a twisted sense of romance. Elsewhere, "I'll Fight for Your Life" makes up for its unremarkable melodies with a percussive synth pulse, while the charming "Head of the Horse" is a curveball ballad from a project that has always been better known for upbeat pop tunes.
Beyond that, however, this album is a 50-minute slog. "Are U Fucked" is a particularly dire offender, with bleak guitar riffs and similarly grim lyrics. "Rich Kids" starts with promisingly buoyant licks but turns into a mean-spirited rant that rhymes "you make me sick, kids" with "a bunch of dickheads," while the only memorable thing about the near-five-minute "Heart Basel" is its groan-inducing title pun. The Drums have long been melancholic, but their music used to be fun; Abysmal Thoughts is just a drag. (Anti)