The Thrills - So Much For The City
Dublin's The Thrills are self-designed to hark on forever about glistening sunsets as if performed during the Bacharach era of the late-sixties and the wall-of-sound era production values of Phil Spector. Their debut album So Much For The City is almost the quintessential soundtrack album for Joe Buck should he actually exist and listen to his walkman. It's such a derivative collection of shimmering sunshine songs that it feels formulaic in approach. The Thrills' PR claims the band went off to follow their muse and write songs in San Diego, and this would be honourable if it wasn't so laughably an attempt to give the band some credibility.
Watching The Thrills live is like watching a more gypsy version of Dexy's Midnight Runners playing multi-harmonised versions of Rembrandts songs. Whilst lead singer Conor Deasy's vocals are crackly and frail live, they are slick and toneful on record, suggesting a monumental production effort by Beck producer Tony Hoffer. In fact, the band's live performances devalue the overall presentation of their finished album product because of the disparity between the two. Still, the record does on occasions have some very catchy moments, and there are as many hits as what could be considered misses. Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far) is a delightful breezy opener, followed swiftly by biggest charting single Big Sur that even has a retro beach video full of lazy dissolves to match. Hell, even the songlisting is printed on the album cover, as opposed to the reverse. Bands nowadays are so keen to plunder the musical past that you worry for the careers of bands looking to do the same in twenty years time.
It's all very jingly-jangly on guitar and plinkety-plonkety on piano, and the contrived lyrics almost help to evoke that west coast sound. The intro to Old Friends, New Lovers sounds very much like a rehash of the Midnight Cowboy Theme, and the opening lyric even contains "Everybody's Talkin'". Seeing as Dustin Hoffman gets a lyrical mention later on, you can almost see the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon approach to their songwriting, in that they've gone from Midnight Cowboy to The Graduate in one swoop and plundered every iconic and stylistic reference these films had. If that wasn't enough, Deckchairs And Cigarettes even throws in the seagulls and crashing waves sound effects just to push our imaginations that one step further towards a golden era sunshine.
Cynicism aside, it's songs such as breakthrough single One Horse Town, steamtrain rocker Say It Isn't So and laid-back rambler Don't Steal Our Sun that just about make the album worth owning. Granted, So Much For The City has hooks a-plenty on the first few listens, but as the cold months draw in you soon realise that the album is redundant for seventy-five percent of the year, and that hooks aside the songs are all sheen and polish and no depth.
Still, it's only their debut album, and as similar homage-paying rockers My Morning Jacket showed with their third album masterpiece It Still Moves - it takes time to get it right. With that in mind, The Thrills have certainly earned a stay-of-execution, at least until their next release.