Review Summary: With an extremely talented vocalist, Nothing But Thieves' first impression displays the band's true talents.
It’s not everyday that you come across a debut album that has the potential to be absolutely huge. Some may impress in quality, but very few capture the aura of the musical zeitgeist in a way that makes listeners feel like they are going to be the next big thing as well. Nothing But Thieves are a five-piece alternative rock band from Essex, England, and despite being formed back in 2012, they’ve never really reached any semblance of popularity in the United States until late 2015, when their single “Trip Switch” rocketed its way up the alternative charts. In Britain, they’ve managed to get a sliver of recognition every here and there, although they’re far from being a household name still. Their sound is accessible, they’re signed to a major label, and they’re a damn great band to boot – all the cards are right in front of them.
One of the first things recognizable about Nothing But Thieves is Conor Mason’s vocals. His versatility as a singer is just as commendable as his voice, and this album does a great job at displaying the best of multiple worlds. Mason has a naturally high singing voice, but he varies his style throughout. On most tracks, he soars to great heights, belting out the words at the top of his lungs. Drawing influence from artists such as Jeff Buckley, Thom Yorke and Matthew Bellamy, Mason captures the sound of his inspirations. He can sing with raw emotion on ballads while also carrying a rock star vibe on tracks such as “Hostage” or “Ban All the Music”.
A main part of what makes Nothing But Thieves
a premier modern rock debut is the band’s knack for writing memorable hooks. Anchored by Mason’s falsetto, the album’s best tracks such as “Itch” and “Wake Up Call” feature the swoony 23-year-old’s high register on the song’s forefront. On the former, he cries out, I just want to feel something real”, and man, does he sell it. There’s the part before the second chorus where the guitar fades out and all that’s highlighted is the vocals, and it’s one of the best moments on the album (although the guitar solo in “Wake Up Call” comes close). These are songs that will get stuck in your head, and there are a handful on the album that are single-worthy and have the aura of a radio smash.
In addition, the band possesses a group of extremely talented songwriters that manage to fill up twelve tracks on an album without any material that is less than stellar. Part of what makes it such a great listen is its variation; the songs don’t blend together, and each one sticks out due to its own merits. The melodies on Nothing But Thieves
are fantastic, and it’s a main part of why they shine amongst a sea of other alternative rock bands. The vocals may be the highlight, but the melodies provide the foundation that allows Mason’s singing to be so wonderful. On ballads like “If I Get High” and “Graveyard Whistling”, the focus easily shifts to the emotion of the moment, and the instrumental work creates an intimate mood that puts further emphasis on the vocals.
Every member of Nothing But Thieves is very talented, and their self-titled debut album is a product of their collective skills. While vocalist Conor Mason stands out the most with his absolute starpower, guitarist Joe Landridge-Brown is responsible for the groovy riffs of “Trip Switch” and “Wake Up Call” and drummer James Price’s percussion work is central in setting the tone of each song, so it’s not just a one-sided affair. With its unique sound and anthemic tone, Nothing But Thieves
is one of the greatest debut records of 2016, and a band this gifted at writing melodies and riffs has the potential to go far. On the album’s last track, “Tempt You (Evocatio)”, Mason wistfully croons, “Let me build you something better.” If this is any indication, something better will be pretty legendary.