Review Summary: Straight up rock anthems for your sixteen year old daughter
Call it nostalgia maybe, but the airwaves have been seeming a little rockless lately – which is why it’s just been downright refreshing to have been getting familiar with the ins and outs of the Isle Of Thieves rockin’ debut record, Only Human
, over the last few days. See, for the most part the Isle of Thieves are just that, with the Canadian five piece serving up a palate of straight up punky-alt rock with few frills around the edges. Make no mistake though, this isn’t just another way of saying that it’s bland music, far from it. Only Human
is one hell of a tightly focused record, with it’s sights set firmly upon it’s radio rock aesthetic which it sticks to unwaveringly. Yet at the same time, or probably because of it, there’s an undeniable ‘safeness’ about Only Human – The light smattering of Fender distortion, the slightly sharpened edge of Japeth’s slick lead vocals, the grunge themed album art… everything here simply screams “We’re accessible, but we’re cool – and we want you to know that”.
Fitting the theme, Only Human
isn’t a complicated album at all either, with guitars tastefully laying down their weaving power chord melodies over a consistent and solid rhythm section, while leads mostly consist of lightly sprinkled arpeggiated playing, with slight variations of the theme; Save perhaps for the subtle Carlos Santana inspired soloing on “Love Artificial”. Instead, where the Thieves break the mould slightly is when they decide to let loose on the synths, which wonderfully compliment many of the songs here, taking the band into slightly more modern territory than their genesis of 90s rock n’ roll. In fact, the band do best when simply firing on all fives(?), with lead single “Hollywood (Cleft Left)” allowing the band to show off their obvious talent for pumping out a catchy, rockable tune, while the refined but aggressive(ish) follow-ups of “Rockstar” and “Clinger” only serving to cement their spot as polished, straight up rockers.
Not everything works all the time of course – it’s when the band allow themselves to slip into to more familiar territory that they waver, with title track “Only Human” and “Selfish Young Girl” falling too deeply into the trap of the well worn and tired verse-chorus-verse structure and faring rather badly because of it. That aside though, the biggest problem here isn’t really the songwriting, per se, but something a little more out of the bands control perhaps: One can’t help but feel that the band have come along with a tad too little too late – a bit of an anachronism if you will – had Only Human
been released during the height of the mainstream’s infatuation with Three Doors Down and Yellowcard only a few years ago (remember how much fun that was!), Isle of Thieves may well be riding on a high on MTV cool that even they would be powerless to resist. Now though, with the likes of Fall Out Boy and the Kings of Leon ticking the checkboxes for the industry’s requisite ‘rock’ bands, the no frills approach just may not be enough.
No doubt though, it’s a record that will probably define a year in the life of some sixteen year old high school girl somewhere out there – with lyrics like "Maybe you are ugly in a beautiful world/ Maybe the world’s too ugly to see beauty in you girl"
(“Love Artificial”), how could it not? When you’ve gone so far as to describe your music as “burying itself in themes that range from angst-driven alienation to reflective observations of living within an existentialist reality”, someone
is going to pick up on it. I’m not just making this up - As of this writing, their myspace has a total of one (1) guy posted on the comments section. Serious pimpage guys. Question is then, is this group of thieves going to be stealing the airwaves anytime in the near future? Honestly, even with a solid effort like this, it’s too hard to tell, but the foot’s in the door, and if the cards are played right… well, maybe, just maybe.