If you’re too young to remember The Beach Boys, newcomers The Thrills have a handy collection of west coast beach music to help you catch up. If their name suggests another New York garage act, the record disproves such notions. And no matter that they’re Irish, for these days anyone can sing about California as if they’ve always lived there.
The first two songs are named after resort towns just south of San Francisco, and the album’s lyrics are peppered with references to sun-kissed beach paradises like San Diego. They even venture over the Nevada border to pay homage to Vegas. The music is largely upbeat and catchy, and the vocals fragile (or weak, depending on your point of view). Throughout, Brian Wilson‘s influence is keenly felt.
It’s not all happy-clappy fluffy bliss though – this is a band keen to remind their listeners that there’s a bad side for every good, and Hollywood Kids is it. A laconic, faintly morose send-up of California’s youth culture, it nevertheless breezes by before the lyrics can spoil the surfer’s beach fire party that is the rest of the record.
Yet there’s the niggling suspicion that this is all a tad manufactured. The music is inoffensive and pleasant to hear, but there’s nothing here that’s remotely original. It sounds like a Beach Boys tribute record. It harks back to a Surfin’ USA time when most of The Thrills’ members hadn’t even been conceived.
For all the jauntiness of Big Sur, where they even namecheck The Monkees, Santa Cruz and Deckchairs and Cigarettes, groundbreaking this record is not. What marks it out are its big sound, full of lovely arrangements, and spot-on singalong melodies that make it perfect for summer. In its own right it’s a pleasing record – and at the end of the day that’s what counts.