It’s hard to tell what to expect from a band who’ve been labelled “alternative rock”. As a genre it encompasses everything from Alt-J to Pixies, leaving it without a distinct sound and cluttered with sub genre’s that bands cling to for identity. Not Nothing But Thieves however, who wear this meaningless term with pride, and adhere to its every vague banality and cliché tirelessly, like Catfish and the Bottlemen before them.
The album actually starts off rather positively, with the creeping guitar riff of “Excuse Me” building to the sound of thudding drums. Once it lurches into the chorus however, the lyrics become an insignificant repetitive sing-a-long backed by an instrumental part that is swamped by its own shallow theatricality. This approach is recycled on the next two songs “Ban All the Music” and “Wake Up Call”. The main lyrics that caught my ear in the former were “Ban all the music, it’s all gone wrong”. It’s either as inconsequential as every other lyric present, or it’s the kind of parochial dig that exploits the sentiment found in the demographic that complains that too much music is being made on laptops and sign petitions to stop Kanye West from performing at Glastonbury. I think this is the first time I just hope that a lyric is completely devoid of insight, so congratulations on acquiring that accolade Nothing But Thieves.
There are certainly moments of actual substantive emotion here, a perfect example being the personal and heartfelt “If I Get High”, on which Connor Mason sings “If I get high enough, will I see you again?”, or when they channel “The Bends” era Radiohead on “Graveyard Whistling”. The danceable bass line on “Hostage” is a high point, along with the punk energy of “Pain Killer”.
There’s absolutely no question however, that the album, and quite probably the band, suffer from the desire to be famous no matter what. The result is an album streamlined and calculated to the point of meaninglessness. I can’t recommend that anyone listen to this album.