November 6, 2003

Test Spin: The Thorns

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The Thorns could be thought of as a singer-songwriter super group, combining the recognized talents of Mathew Sweet, Shaun Mullins, and Pete Droge.

The effort, however, falls short of expectations.

With their self-titled release, the roots rockers bring a disappointingly redundant sound that wreaks of down home comfort to the point that it gets uncomfortable. The entire album is acoustically driven with sleepy vocals that are accompanied by soft snare drums and the occasional piano. There are, however, a few departures from the mundane acoustics. “Thorns,” an opus of droning guitars, an organ, and a pounding bass beat is more reminiscent of ’80s glam rock than roots rock. The same goes for “Dragonfly,” which has a similar feel to that of mellowed out Led Zeppelin songs such as “Tangerine.” Yet, more often than not, The Thorns sound like a group of lovelorn teenagers trying to imitate Tom Petty and James Taylor, without the psychedelia of the former and the introspection of the latter.

This album seems intent on conjuring up a certain feeling. The speakers project comfort of the nostalgic variety on every track, evoking the warm feeling of staring off into an autumn sunset. Although the mood The Thorns manage to lull us into is pleasing, in the end it is uninspiring. Nothing here stands out as memorable or distinctive. It is a listening experience that fails to live outside of the stereo, and while it plays, The Thorns encloses us in a lukewarm bubble of comfort that will either satisfy or suffocate.

Archived article by Zach Jones