November 20, 2003

Test Spin: The Thrills

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Ever wonder what a Neil Young album would sound like if he had just gotten a lobotomy? Well wonder no more, because the Thrills’s debut album, So Much for the City, captures that sound and cerebral functioning down to a tee. In many ways, the album is brilliant; Conor Deasy and his fellow Dubliners have created a record musically sophisticated and rewarding.

The Thrills’s recreate the California and Southern sounds of the ’70s, equipped with a pseudo-theremin straight out of “Good Vibrations,” banjos, and enough hooks to make Peter Pan pee his leggings. It’s a shame that the inane lyrics have to almost blow the whole thing. The longest song on the album has basically ten lines of lyrics — seriously.

“Old Friends, New Lovers,” an exquisite slice of Brian Wilson-style classical pop, combines strings, violins, violas, and cellos to create a chorus of pure euphoria.

“One Horse Town,” with its bouncing chorus and bass-line straight out of Love’s “You Set the Scene,” could easily be the song of next summer. As on many of the other tracks on the album, it displays The Thrills’s knack for lush harmonies and skill at combining surf and southern-rock effortlessly into one sound. Unfortunately, The Thrills also throw a few slow rockers like “Hollywood Kids” into the mix that go nowhere and only serve to undermine the album’s momentum.

“Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far),” the first single off So Much for the City, epitomizes the album as a whole. This is pop at its most inventive; a multi-layered rocker filled with psychedelic flourishes, honky-tonk banjo, and a chorus with an innovative tempo-shift.

Unfortunately, the absurdly simple lyrics don’t do the music justice; Deasy repeats the name “Santa Cruz” 28 times throughout the song. Yes, I counted. And yes, that’s once every nine seconds when you do the math. Fortunately, as indicative of the rest of the album, the eight seconds in between are pure beach bliss.

Archived article by Jared Wolfe