We’re all familiar with The Thrills, right? The summer of 2003 could not have ended without the wistful Big Sur galloping to the dizzy reaches of top ten territory. Whilst Santa Cruz and One Horse Town may have passed with a comparitive whimper beforehand, Big Sur captured our imaginations and propelled the five Irish Monkees to national (and international) indie prominence.
There are, however, two distinct ways to view The Thrills – either with One Horse Town appeal or one trick pony suspicion. Have these young fellas cleverly worked out a niche sound in a saturated market, or are they merely musically stunted? Regardless of interpretation, So Much For The City was a runaway success, and Let’s Bottle Bohemia would appear to be similar enough to promise equal reward.
Album opener Tell Me Something I Don’t Know gets things off to a flying start, not least because it sounds more like Jet doing their best Thrills impression rather than the lads themselves. Raw guitar soon makes way for piano, although the track remains far more concerted than anything heard before. It’s easy to imagine, with one track down, the band swapping charter flights for private jets. They’ve certainly gone up in the world, and it shows in their music. The only problem is that small-town optimism was a vital part of their original outlook.
Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?, as you should already know, poses an enirely relevent question in the form of a delightful Sur-sound-a-like. Connor Deasy’s vocals remain as expressive as they are whiney, particularly with the verge-of-breaking technique having been such a trademark success in the early days.
Lyrically, if not musically, sun-kissed memories seem to have made way for cynicism and sarcasm. It’s a shift that certainly pays off at times, the positive tune / weary message juxtaposition all the more interesting compared to the likes of Santa Cruz and Don’t Steal Our Sun. “Ogling eyes, ogling eyes”, sings Deasy on Faded Beauty Queens, “I know you fear the day when it’s another way”. Other moments, unfortunately, tend to fall short of Deasy’s poignant potential, and feel more like words to fill the air rather than a particularly urgent or touching message: “Top 40 knock-ups, providing the soundtrack / for your humping on dancefloors” croans he on Saturday Night… surely such trivial subject matter can be left to the likes of Robbie Williams?
That said, The Thrills manage to turn up the emotion to Coldplay-like levels, particularly on Not For All The Love In The World, which could go toe-to-toe with any Rush Of Blood track. Their trademark sound (or only sound, if you prefer) comes back with wild abandon on Our Wasted Lives before again subsiding somewhat for the “We’re big but we haven’t sold out” number You Can’t Fool Old Friends With Limousines. “I don’t love you, I just love myself” is the message, and the irony, whilst perhaps best left to others, is not lost.
I’m going to stop myself there, because Let’s Bottle Bohemia, for all its potential short-comings, is a great record, and, by my calculations, that makes two out of two. They may not view the world through doe eyes any longer, but for all the surface cyncism they are the same five dreamers as before. As such, they’re ripe for comparison with The Bees – a band who thrilled with a lo-fi debut before moving onto larger scale efforts: The sound is similar yet different, but ultimately just as enjoyable and (probably) rather more substantial in the long-run. I doff my hat to The Thrills – nobody does what they do in such an endearing and evocative manner.