Let’s have a look at how IV Thieves want to market themselves. One day, lead thief Nic Armstrong was allegedly so out of his tree on jazz cigarettes that he couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the record shop and buy himself some new cassettes, so instead he … er… recorded a demo that his girlfriend then just happened to drop in the post to a record company. Gosh! What a … load of complete and utter bollocks. Does Mr Armstrong really expect us to believe this?
Or does, in fact, said story indicate just what a pile of manufactured tosh his sub-Led Zeppelin pub rock really is? Fact: if you’ve smoked too many jazz cigarettes to walk to the record shop (which, correct me if I’m wrong, won’t have sold pre-recorded cassettes since before most of you, dear readers, were even born) you’re not likely to be arsed to pick up a guitar and record an entire album of demos. You’ll just drool, giggle and listen to too much Grateful Dead instead. Which, ooh, it sounds like he has as it happens but not, I’ll wager, for the reasons he’s claiming.
In other words, IV Thieves are average, MOR pub rock made by men who may well have spent most of their formative years dreaming of being Jimmy Page but then, so did plenty of others. The album does have some redeeming features, such as the alternating vocalists – Shane Lawlor and Glynn Wedgewood also take a turn. This makes for a good contrast between songs that prevents the album from sounding too samey throughout, or perhaps disguises the fact that it does. Maybe Lawlor and Wedgewood (good name for a bad ’70s detective show….) are just protecting their options for when the honesty police come for Armstrong.
Where IV Thieves loyalties really lie of course can be seen in the bands they name check when trying to describe themselves: Jet, Oasis (at their least inspired, we must assume) and other modern lad rock heroes. Where those have swagger and a laddish sneer, however, IV Thieves have an AOR home studio manual and a desire to be the favourite band of office workers who think David Cameron is quite cool, really.
Devil’s advocate time: The Sound And The Fury is actually quite catchy and so is Day Is A Downer, a call to arms for everyone who’s a bit fed up with their job but won’t actually do anything about it other than moan. Higher is quite Stone Roses in places (golly, perhaps they’ve been smoking again!). Here and there they sound a bit like The Jam – or probably Paul Weller solo, to be more honest – and at others they sound like Blur when they were still trying to keep one toe dipped in the Baggy scene, or a lad rock Small Faces.
If you like guitar noodling there’s plenty to recommend it, and the odd good drum solo thrown in for good measure as well. All The Time and Chase Me Off/Out could be Bowie if he’d been straight in all senses of the word and had his eye on headlining festivals sponsored by mobile phone companies. Some people may think there’s nothing wrong with that.
The rest of us will be left wishing that If We Can’t Escape My Pretty had contained more songs like Die In Love (The Moment Knowing Slips), a Talking Heads-like stomper that rises so far above the rest of the album that it almost seems as if it’s slipped onto it accidentally from somewhere else. Not rubbish then, by any means, but not good enough either.