Thieves Like Us: Again & Again

[16 May 2011]

By Matt James

It would be somewhat misleading to take your band name from the hallowed canon of an illustrious, richly revered beat combo and then sound nothing like them. It would all be “A bit of a swizz”. Well Swedish/American synth pop trio Thieves Like Us sensibly agree with you, and thus their second opus Again & Again sounds more like the introspective, melodic, electronica of New Order than the beer swillin’, wench leering, hair metal of Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts. Although having said that, a little of Monsieur Dumpy’s table manners may’ve lifted Again up a peg or two.

Again & Again is a nice album. In fact in parts it’s very nice. Take the album highlight, the seven minute futurist manifesto “So Clear”, which is the imagined heavenly marriage between Sir Johnny of Marr and Glass Candy’s fantastic fabulous Italo stunner “Something Stirring in Space”. So icily cool it could’ve been floating from Snake Plissken’s headphones as he sailed his swanky glider precariously over a redecorated Manhattan during Escape from New York. Elsewhere, the spanking new wave, stop/start disco tart called “The Walk” is so Duran-ish it’s hard to believe at least one Taylor doesn’t appear on it somewhere, somehow. In fact, pastel suits, rolled up sleeves, and sweeping fringes are almost compulsory in this club. The boy-girl tag team on “Lover Lover” recalls the Human League circa Dare, whilst the slick, glossy and tastefully poppy “Shyness” and “Never Know Love” are equally tailor made for wine bars, supermodels, and catalogue poses. Unhook the velvet rope Marcel, Mr. Ferry and Miss Hall are pulling up on the driveway.

It’s no great surprise to learn the razor-hipped and lusciously-lipped French label Kitsuné helped discover Thieves Like Us. Like most of their walk-in wardrobe, it’s impeccably chic, très continental, inoffensive, mixes well with others, and has great cheekbones. But there’s just something missing here that stops it being truly great. It needs a little more steam, un petit more fire, a lot more muscle. It’s as welcoming and cozy as sitting in a classy restaurant eating a perfect dinner. Alas, that rebellious part of you secretly pines for more edge, drama, chaos! Something to remember. At least a minor kerfuffle over who pays the bill. Andy Grier’s voice also is a tad on the ‘wafer thin’ side too. It’d be intriguing to hear a bigger pair of lungs inflate these tunes and really inflame their bones. There are signs, though, there is dirt ‘n’ depth lurking behind the whiter-than-white airbrushed Vogue surface. The sparse ‘n’ slightly sinister “Silence” carries some of the suburban alienation of early Pet Shop Boys, whilst the blurry, trippy “Mercy” dreams the slow-clappin’ revelations of Bobby Gillespie after emptying several bottles of Night Nurse.

Overall, though, it’s sadly hard not to envisage Thieves Like Us becoming eternally damned with faint praise. A promising contender, rather than the champ. As nice as Again & Again is (and it is “nice”), in 2011 there are simply bigger fish dishing this electro, pop art revivalism up more convincingly and, crucially, with more personality—Nite Jewel, Ladyhawke, Parallels, Former Ghosts. That aside, Again & Again will still get you in the mood for a great night out, just don’t expect it to the main event of the evening. In other words chaps, too much Sumner ‘n’ Gilbert, and not enough Morris ‘n’ Hooky. Now what this band needs is a Rocky-style training montage. In the words of trainer Micky, “You’re gonna eat lightning, and you’re gonna crap thunder!”.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/140067-thieves-like-us-again-again/