Review Summary: Insufficient energy, hooks & highlights ultimately result in a disappointing 2nd album for this talented quartet. Give their debut a listen instead.
When reviewing British India’s excellent 2007 debut ‘Guillotine’, some handsome devil listed ‘Highly Evolved’ by The Vines as the album most similar to it in the ‘Recommended By Reviewer’ section. The 2 bands have much in common; They are both Australian (despite emanating from opposite coastlines) and they both play a brand of garage rock (British India lean more towards an alternative form of dance rock as compared to The Vines’ grunginess).
Alas, it seems they now have one further characteristic in common and this is best illustrated with these portions of Heather Phares’ AllMusic.com’s review of The Vines’ second album ‘Winning Days’… “A textbook case of the sophomore slump, the album lacks the hooks, melodies, and enthusiasm that made for such a promising debut… Aside from some slightly more complex song structures, these songs just aren't particularly notable or memorable”. It is genuinely freaky how dead on those same words can now also be attributed to British India’s follow up, ‘Thieves’.
As the old adage states; “first impressions last”. For this reason, ‘God Is Dead, Meet The Kids’ is a poor choice as opener as it sets the tone for the album in general. Unfortunately, that tone is a lifeless one with no real discernible hook or attraction of any significance. This is too often a weakness of ‘Thieves’, with ‘Put It Right Down’, ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’ and ‘The Golden Years’ all falling into the same trap.
While being one of the better tracks on the album, lead single ‘I Said I’m Sorry’ also tells a story. A solid mid-tempo cut which reveals itself on further listens rather than being super immediate or catchy, there are signs of matured songwriting here. Unfortunately, with only a year between releases, it appears that the band have yet to properly find their feet. Too many songs have tidbits of something impressive (a guitar riff, a melody or a lyrical direction) that are simply not followed through on. Track 6 ‘Airport Tags’ is also rather similar.
Strangely enough though, one instance where British India has fully realized the potential of a song is on one of the two slower cuts contained on it, ‘Funeral For A Trend’. The methodical approach used here allows both the vocals and music extra room to breathe, thus maximizing its effectiveness.
Thankfully, there are also some signs on ‘Thieves’ of the impressive combination of raw rock and energetic dancey post-punk sound which made ‘Guillotine’ so impressive. Should have been opener ‘This Dance Is Loaded’ and track 7 ‘You Will Die And I Will Take Over’ almost overdose on energy, both in the form of Declan Melia’s enthusiastic vocals as well as the swirl of background guitars, drums and super effective toe-tapping high-hats. Later, on penultimate track ‘Nic The Poet’, the volume gets further turned up on a frenetic 3 minutes worth of punk.
When all is said and done though, ‘Thieves’ ultimately disappoints. It is not necessarily a bad album and will actually grow on many listeners to be half-decent. However, that is if the listener is willing to be patient and listen closely, which is a big “IF”. British India may still be a band to keep an eye out for in the future, but ‘Thieves’ will be looked back on as an aberration. Pretty much half of the tracks are filler, while the highlights are simply not sufficiently impressive to make up for them. Give ‘Guillotine’ a listen instead.
Recommended Tracks: Funeral For A Trend, I Said I’m Sorry & This Dance Is Loaded.