Yup I've been giving this a few listens over the last couple of days. I have never hidden my absolute and unashamed love for this band after first discovering their mySpace page almost two years ago now. I have to stress that the songs I heard then were ones that lifted me off my feet and that doesn't happen that often. I don't get that emotional reaction to music all the time and I listen to a lot of different types of stuff (far more than is probably healthy). I don't know, I suppose it did it for me and it doesn't for others but I was in love with this band long before I saw them on the front pages of any magazine so I feel that despite the band's current label as 'hipster shit', I wasn't aware of any trend and it didn't affect my opinion one jot.
So the EP and album followed last year and I snapped them up - the LP was almost certainly one of my favourite albums of last year. I heard a lot of interesting a worthy stuff but nothing that was so enjoyable.
Anyway, that was then and this is now. Firstly, Portamento doesn't offer anything that I can see which will attract anyone who doesn't already like The Drums. That's it basically - if you don't like them then this album is very unlikely to change your mind. I hope I'm wrong of course but they haven't done a 'Horrors' here.
As for those of us who did love the band's output so far then the reaction to this album will be interesting. In some ways it represents a typical sophomore effort in that it isn't as immeiately catchy as the debut nor does it have the same number of instant 'hits'. This will be interpreted by some as a lack of creativity on the part of Jonathan and co and perhaps evidence of a rushed album. Others will interpret this as an attempt to do something a little bit more challenging (not in the sort of Radiohead Kid A "challenging" sense but instead in the simple way that some of these songs contain elements of what we already like about The Drums but without the instant hook and infectiousness we're accustom to).
There are instant hitters on here, 'Days', 'What Your Were', 'Money', 'Hard to Love' are all great pop songs and arguably as good as anything on the debut. It's the second half of the album which will sound a bit different though and that's good because I would suggest it's the strongest bit of it and almost certainly the most interesting.
'Searching For Heaven' will put some people off - that's a fact. It's the most obvious thing on the album which isn't like 'The Drums' we know and love but hold on a bit and give a few listens. The synths on this track are very good and I personally found it very easy to buy into the vocals, though as I say, they're obviously a bit radical amongst the other songs here. NME seemed to dislike this track and I know they won't be the only ones (it's nothing bloody like Kraftwork though so I have no idea what they're talking about there). I think it's actually really quite decent and it marks a change in the mood of the album as if a little rumble of thunder is heard in the distance on a sunny day.
After this we have a collection of songs which seem to have a 'taint' to them - they're darker for sure. It's almost as if a little gloomy cloud comes over the hill and spoils the picnic everyone's been having.
But these are good songs - 'If He Likes It Let Him Do It' is probably the best thing they're ever done. 'In The Cold' is melancholy and makes no apologies for it but it's a really lovely song.
Another thing about this album is the presence of electronic elements. They were always there to some degree but they make there presence felt much more on this album and it's to the band's credit. They do that mixture of catchy guitar and subtle interplay with synthesizers like the very best of them.
So then a good album? Yes, I'd say it is. It's not as good as the first album but that's not a comparison that needs making. It gives those who like The Drums an opportunity to chew on something for a little bit. Like me, you may find yourself wanting to go back and listen to it far more than you originally thought you would.
7.5 for me though this might go up to 8. I'll see if it can grow on me anymore than it already has.