Lackluster Sequels Could Leave Listeners Disappointed
The Drums — ‘Brutalism’
THE GOOD: New York indie pop/rockers the Drums come back with their (his) fifth.
THE BAD: “Brutalism” is a record of both cool pop tunes and (unfortunately) lesser moments.
THE NITTY GRITTY: In the indie world, a do-it-yourself solo bedroom project often blossoms into a full, proper band. The Drums did just the opposite. “Brutalism” is the second Drums record that is actually a Jonathan Pierce solo outing. But since he was always the lead singer anyway, you’ll barely notice the difference.
Thankfully, left alone, the guy doesn’t fall victim to having too much creative freedom. Never entering “self-indulgent” territory, he knows what the Drums is supposed to be. That is, a danceable rock band cranking out songs packed with forward momentum. A couple of slower bits aside, that’s pretty much what “Brutalism” contains. And it’s good.
The only drawback is it sounds A LOT like past Drums albums. Maybe Pierce needs some new outside collaborators to switch things up a little. Maybe.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Foals — ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost — Part 1’
THE GOOD: British indie rockers Foals get extra ambitious on their fifth.
THE BAD: Part 1? Yes. This is only half the story. Part 2 drops in the fall. Will you WANT to come back to see how everything turns out?
THE NITTY GRITTY: Foals began as an underground math-rock outfit on 2008’s jittery “Antidotes” and somehow managed to break out big time over the next couple of albums (even on narrow American alternative radio). “Everything” is the band’s most challenging record since signing with major label Warner Bros.
As the title suggests, it’s yet another “doomsday” album that tells sprawling tales of political and environmental unrest. Foals shows off not only its rock side but also its more danceable side, too (“In Degrees” is pretty damn slick). But there are already a few pitfalls in the mix (the morose and meandering “I’m Done with This World”). Whether Foals can sustain the narrative for another full album has yet to be seen.
BUY IT?: Your choice.
Cage the Elephant — ‘Social Cues’
THE GOOD: Kentucky (by way of London, England) rockers Cage the Elephant come back with their fifth album (and first in four years).
THE BAD: “Social Cues” is typical Cage. Strong tracks, weaker moments, etc. Don’t expect anything trailblazing here.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Frontman Matt Shultz has a new subject for songwriting — divorce. His recent breakup inspired a handful of songs, but other than somber closer “Goodbye,” the new record isn’t exactly a non-stop downer. The band cranks out its usual mix of rock, funk and just a hint of modern blues. Most tracks immediately latch onto a groove and carry us away for just under four minutes.
I hesitate to use the word “formulaic,” but there is a definite pattern here. But summer’s coming, and the band is on a co-headlining tour with Beck. You need that all-important alternative radio support (I guess). It’s definitely time to change up the recipe though. For now, we get a decent spring/summer cruising record. We’ll take it.
BUY IT?: Still ... sure.
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