June 7, 2010
There’s a marked contrast between the simplicity of pop put out there by Summer Camp and The Drums. The Drums’ music – save being heard in isolation, for ‘I Feel Stupid’ is a great big chunk of fun-pop – is ungraciously distilled if you’re vaguely familiar with the 1960s, Sarah Records, C86, Labrador Records, Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, Beach Boys or The Smiths. Their main trick is in producing a stream of concussed-simple lyrics encouraging dumb dancing as reflex. Summer Camp, on the other hand, offer pure pop key changes, beautiful nostalgia, two entirely distinctive vocals and intricately put-together songs so adorable they feel like they’re soundtracked the ’80s I imagine my older (, dafter) incarnation to have lived.
It’s obvious that Summer Camp have blown up since last caught back in March at Notting Hill Arts Club. But with that added gloss and finesse I must stall, for it was but three months ago – in the grand scheme of Pop, that is but a breath. Elizabeth Sankey, Jeremy Warmsley and the three others in the band are now the real deal, with new songs – including set-highlight ’1988′ – taking them miles away from the ‘lo-fi’ and ‘chillwave’ labels misplacedly thrown at Moshi Moshi released single ‘Ghost Train’. ‘Round The Moon’ is now a massive great pop song, Warmsley and Sankley’s vocals neatly contrasting into a sound alive and kicking like an excited child.
Summer Camp’s too-perfect-to-be-true breakthrough has birthed a set of darling songs, ramshackle back in March but now fully potent. It’s a neat contrast still though, between the dinkiness of the recorded ‘Was It Worth It’ and the show-stopping performance of that very same track. Transferred from the synthetic bedroom to its Polaroid-equivalent, the stage, the set might as well be sub-titled ‘The Soundtrack To The Best ’80s Movie… Ever’. And let’s not forget the trigger to listen to Warmsley’s own excellent solo material, starting on 2008′s jittery-pop spectacular How We Became.
The Drums, however, take this level of innocence into new and dangerous territory. They’re being marketed at a young audience, from what it looks like, an audience happy and perhaps even oblivious to their influences-by-numbers tack. And while that’s not a de facto awful thing – see New Young Pony Club‘s The Optimist - it’s the non-stop doe-eye that infuriates. I’m curious as to the wild-dancing nature of the set I’ve been reading about, and it’s actually more odd than complementary; the four-piece (save the drummer, risibly) are flailing about on the stage like performing monkeys, their eyes sunk back into their heads doing perma-360s. ‘I Felt Stupid’ is played completely out of tune and balance, the performance on its own proving so deliberately infantile I’m left standing with an open mouth.
It’s a neat idea, taking these excellent influences and forging something deliberately so simple, so magnetic, but the lack of another dimension is forced – it’s too contrived for an intelligent human to write every single lyric along these lines. The “I did not want to let you go/ ooh, I knew I had to” refrain of ‘Submarine’, coupled with the bizarre child-auditioning-for-reality-TV stage antics of particularly singer Jonathan Pierce and guitarist Adam Kessler, is enough to kill all enthusiasm for the summer.
Live, The Drums produce one of the most unnatural shows I’ve ever seen – the manic Ian Curtis swaying is a step too far. I find myself obsessed with the steps The Drums must have to take in submitting to the simplicity and baby animal persona they’re so fixed on as a PR trick, and it makes me puzzled.