See if this sounds like enough of a novelty for you: a bunch of drummers in a bunch of Ohio bands (one of which is the Black Keys) get together and form their own band, called (naturally) Drummer. With the attention they might get because their bass player is Patrick Carney, Drummer could be dismissed or otherwise judged differently as some sort of side-project or musical lark. In fact, you might almost expect Drummer’s Feel Good Together to stumble in the same ways the Monsters of Folk album stumbles (more on that later): you might expect it to be astoundingly (or even offensively) less than the sum of its parts.
But albums, regardless of personnel, sink or swim on the music and it turns out that these Ohio drummers have put together a refreshingly solid, musically muscular rock album, one of the better ones I’ve heard this year. I approached Drummer with a lot of trepidation, vowing to listen to the album at least twice before I rendered a verdict (standard Bollocks! disclaimer: I listen to every album I review a minimum of three times before I write anything about it. Most albums, unless they’re unbearable, make it to 8 or more listens), thinking that it might be a pretty hard slog. But Feel Good Together is stuffed to the gills with stellar musicianship and it is almost shockingly good. So good, in fact, that it makes me want to check out the other bands in which the drummers in Drummer drum. Drummer’s drummer, Greg Boyd, is from Ghostman & Sandman; as previously stated, Black Key Carney plays bass; the awesome lead guitar work on Feel Good Together comes from Jamie Stillman who comes from Teeth of the Hydra; there are keyboards by Steve Clements of Six Parts Seven; and Drummer’s singer is Jon Finley, who sounds like a cross between M. Ward and the Cult’s Ian Astbury and comes from a band awesomely named Beaten Awake. Of all these bands, I’ve only listened to the Black Keys (though I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of Six Parts Seven) and there’s nothing on this album that sounds even remotely like a Black Keys song. I could suggest, therefore, that Drummer sounds like bits of all those other bands but – and here’s something I love – I will have to listen to them all to find out. So it’s like Drummer has given me five new bands to listen to instead of one. And I still loves me some Black Keys. Maybe even enough to check out their rap-rock project, Blak Roc. Maybe.
Feel Good Together is a brief listen at ten tracks, and those tracks are almost gleefully schizophrenic, often burying the vocals deep in the mix (which I don’t always like, mind you, but Finley is able to growl out some catchy melodic hooks here and there and Drummer has some facility for harmony, especially on standout tracks like “Connect to Lounge.”) and cranking the guitars to eleven. The album opens with a keyboard riff straight out of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” before tearing off on its own little rock adventure. Later songs will remind astute listeners of Franz Ferdinand, Broadcast, and other danceable indie, but you can’t really say that Drummer is ripping off those artists either. Feel Good Together, as its artworks suggests, is its own half-melted sundae of pop and rock. Parts of this album, as I make my nth trip through it, even remind me of Hum. Remember Hum? You’d Prefer An Astronaut? “She’s out back counting stars?” No? That’s too bad. They were awesome. (If you do remember Hum and miss them, you can hear their only hit, “Stars”, on the soundtrack for Saints Row 2, where you can drive around killing people and pretending it’s because they didn’t buy Hum’s albums when they had the chance.)
Anyway, there’s not much to discuss regarding Drummer as a lyrical entity because (have I mentioned this?) I have no clue what Jon Finley is singing about. There’s part of one song where he sings, “Are we happy?/ I have no clue.” His vocals are barely intelligible when they’re not buried under every instrument on the album and I am genuinely perplexed as to why this doesn’t annoy the piss out of me. I suppose it could be that Feel Good Together is benefitting from my exceedingly low expectations. The reviews that I read before I heard the album prepared me for, at best, a somewhat interesting mishmash of musical styles that provide a bunch of drummers (well, except for one) a chance to step out from behind their kits. But the album manages to be pretty engaging throughout and though the songs wander a bit, they all fit neatly under five minutes.
Another thing I like about Drummer is that they’re basically an anti-supergroup. In this age of Them Crooked Vultures (I’m still trying to decide if I will listen to that album or not), The Dead Weather, Monsters of Folk, and whatever group the drummer from Cheap Trick and the Fountains of Wayne guy were in, it’s nice to see a band of bandmembers where the most famous dude is one half of a garage blues band from Ohio that is still fairly below the radar for most of America. Drummer, then, is the musical equivalent of the “No-Name Defense” of the 1972 Miami Dolphins; they’re not big stars, but they’re out there every week, kicking ass and taking names. At least, I assume that’s true of the guys in Drummer. And I’d love to believe that the members of the ’72 Dolphins starting D are just running around the country tackling dudes at random. How cool would that be?