If you name your band after a New Order song several things may well happen to you. You might be badged as Barney wannabees, or you may well be besieged by hordes of rabid New Order fans aiming to draw some linkage into their complex network of fandom. Or then again you could be a Swedish/American band that writes intelligent, well-crafted pop tunes that sound nothing like N.O. and the association is merely titular.
The latter applies in this case.
So therefore after a four-year hiatus, Thieves Like Us return with their fifth eponymously titled record. They tracked and produced the new set of tunes in late 2015. The new record reinvents the band’s “cosmic song based aesthetic” with the introduction of live bass (Thomas Franklin) and drums (Tore Knipping), steering its songs into more interesting waters. It’s very good.
Andy Grier’s frail and airy vocals are at the centre of all that happens. Guitarist Chris Wackrow makes his shoegaze aligned guitar work delicately fill out the rhythmic spaces which meshes with swirling synths, pulsing bass arpeggios and pedal notes and crisp percussion. Backing singers Martine Duverglas, Mia Von Matt, and Monika Martinez create an orchestral vocal back drop which gives the sound a cinematic feel. The end result is an intricate, accessible pop record and a natural progression of the band’s previous record Bleed Bleed Bleed.
While the new album does feature upbeat light pop movers like Dani and E-Problems, there are also melancholic, introspective and socio-political tunes (Jennifer, Broken Mirror, Israel). Economic peril, over-militarization and technology are serious themes delivered in a contradictory light pop stew.
The album is released on 7th April 2017 worldwide via Seayou Records/Rough Trade. The artwork depicts a re-enactment of Hans Conrad Schumann’s iconic jump from communist German Democratic Republic to freedom; by a woman wearing the same pilot suit that singer Andy Grier’s father wore in Vietnam.
Music of this ilk can sometimes be precious, saccharine and lack emotional integrity, that’s to say you wouldn’t normally find me sitting through a whole album of the type of material on offer. However this band seem to have been able to extract the best elements of this musical form and create a most enjoyable listening experience.