When Essex five-piece Nothing But Thieves announced the release of their debut album, they did so with the sort of anticipation that can fuel an explosive rise or trigger a sudden fall. For months they had been backed by radio royalty in Zane Lowe, Fearne Cotton and Annie Mac – not to mention featuring on the soundtracks of our acronym-sharing ‘Made in Chelsea’ and ‘FIFA 16’; the latter of which seems to have had a habit of uncovering some gems in recent years.
A lot of pressure then, for a band trying to break into a saturated rock scene with a debut release.
But there is something distinctly different about this album. Fundamentally, this is a very accomplished album musically. Whilst varied, and obviously a product of self-defined influences ranging from Radiohead to Bring Me The Horizon, Nothing But Thieves combine them in such a way that offers a very refreshing package, unique enough to present an original collection of tracks but not near being ‘revolutionary’ enough to divide opinion.
The songwriting throughout, particularly during the more emotive ‘If I Get High’ and ‘Lover, Please Stay’ is very raw and, at times, haunting. It is no doubt aided by the distinctive tone of vocalist Conor Mason, who on this evidence seems to justify the tags with Matt Bellamy of Muse and Jeff Buckley; not a bad duo to be likened to as far as vocalists go. Finding a balance between Mason’s regular somewhat biting tones and his dulcet falsetto will certainly be one of the main challenges going forward, but as a demonstration of potentials and capabilities this has been one of the most promising releases of the year.
These aren’t the sort of songs you’ll find playing at a house party or on a night out like a lot of other rock releases recently, but listening through tracks like album highlight ‘Itch’ and opener ‘Excuse Me’ gives the impression that those environments wouldn’t do them justice; this is an offering finds its true value in a live or otherwise personal environment.
It’s wrong to think this is all about the vocals though; the contrast with the Zeppelin and Chilli Peppers’ guitar is one of the most intriguing parts about this band and is their true defining factor. It’s something the current scene is missing by and large, and certainly gives these boys a lot of scope with which to work in the future.
To quote above, this album was released with the sort of anticipation that can fuel an explosive rise or trigger a sudden fall. You get the feeling it will be the former, with a headline tour freshly sold out and breaking into the Top 10 albums just a week since release. It will be interesting to see how the band move forward; whether they decide to try and replicate the success of singles ‘Ban All The Music’ and the aforementioned ‘Itch’ or continuing producing a diverse selection of tracks. But one thing is for sure: it’s hard to imagine Nothing But Thieves being a band you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.
By Luke Morenas-Jones