Album Review: "Dead Club City" - Nothing But Thieves
Photo Credit: Spotify
Making a bold and innovative return, Nothing But Thieves has once again graced our ears with the release of their latest album, Dead Club City. The album comes almost 2 years after the epic extended edition of Moral Panic and is the band's fourth studio album. Launching us into a true concept album, Dead Club City takes us through many stories and tales set in the band's city-sized members-only club. The tracks on the album explore various story arcs and points of view from different characters in and around the city. Using the fictional cityscape as the album's focal point, each song incorporates themes we might experience in the real world, specifically unity, change, internet culture, aging, politics, escapism, advertisement, and the music industry.
1. Welcome to the DCC
3. Tomorrow Is Closed
4. Keeping You Around
5. City Haunts
6. Do You Love Me Yet?
7. Members Only
8. Green Eyes :: Siena
9. Foreign Language
10. Talking To Myself
11. Pop The Balloon
Formed in 2012, Nothing But Thieves has been steadily on the rise and has seen much success over the past few years. The English five-piece group consists of singer Conor Mason, guitarists Joe Langridge-Brown and Dominic Craik, bassist Philip Blake, and drummer James Price. Since the band's inception, Nothing But Thieves has amassed over 1.2 million album sales worldwide, 2 billion global streams, and 250 million video streams. Their previous album releases have put the band on the UK top 10 charts, peaking at No. 2 with 2017's Broken Machine. They have been building quite the loyal fanbase and enjoy a wide following for their unique alt rock sound. Nothing But Thieves describes their sound as "passionate guitar-based rock that balances indie rock artfulness with a pop sensibility." Consistently pushing boundaries musically, the band often experiments with various genre combinations, including blending rock with hip-hop, pop, and, most recently, 80s dance/disco. Dead Club City ushers in a new, progressive chapter for Nothing But Thieves and their ever-evolving sound, setting the band up for their first ever No. 1 album on the UK charts and giving the band four consecutive top 10 appearances.
"Welcome to the DCC" is the first up on Dead Club City, giving us an intro into the fictional world the band creates and setting the stage for Nothing But Thieves' latest sound. Intertwining electronic dance beats and a heavy use of synths, "Welcome to the DCC" brims with an upbeat energy and sound that pays tribute to 80s dance tracks. Keeping the 80s energy going, Nothing But Thieves continues our journey through the Dead Club City with "Overcome." Like "Welcome to the DCC," "Overcome" is a synth-laden track that was released prior to the album as a single. The track feels like hope incarnate, tying in the themes of change and escapism through a love song. "Overcome" is filled with uplifting lines, like "Redefine the pain to something more/And we shall overcome as we've done before," making the song a euphoric anthem. Both songs give the impression that this fictional city is the perfect place, advertising with the phrase "all the heaven, all the time."
Giving a bit of genre variety to the album, Nothing But Thieves switches things up a bit with "Tomorrow Is Closed" and "Keeping You Around." "Tomorrow Is Closed" brings a more pop-rock influenced track to the album, keeping things lively with catchy melodies and memorable choruses. The song is one of many energetic numbers featured on Dead Club City, but the lyrics behind it present a bit of juxtaposition. "Tomorrow Is Closed" is filled with darker lines, hinting at destruction with the lyrics "Tomorrow is closed/There's no future at all/We've burned it all down, down to the ground." It's a shocking twist to the feel-good energy the song exudes, keeping listeners on the edge of their seats. Following the pessimistic lyrical vibe of "Tomorrow Is Closed," "Keeping You Around" continues to explore the not-so-perfect life the Dead Club City offers, shedding light on feelings of being pulled apart by an outside force. Though "Keeping You Around" is tinged with negativity and empty promises from the city, it's one of the chillest songs on the album. It's a more unique composition on Dead Club City, incorporating a trip-hop sound into the album's mix of genres.
"City Haunts" moves us back to a similar vibe as "Welcome to the DCC" and "Overcome," giving clear nods to 80s electronic dance and disco influences. Conor Mason shows off his impressive falsetto on the track's choruses, reminiscent of some of Prince's vocal work. With more aggressive guitar riffs and energetic beats, "City Haunts" is an absolute banger; it features melodies that will persistently haunt listeners' minds (in a good way). Continuing in a similar musical vein, "Do You Love Me Yet?" follows "City Haunts" with an all-out 80s/disco sound. The track has driving, pulsing synth lines reminiscent of Foreigner's "Urgent," and it draws inspiration from the four-on-the-floor beats that are characteristic of disco. Taking a hard look at the music industry, "Do You Love Me Yet?" tackles some of the issues that come with obtaining fame. The song includes some introspective lyrics, featuring the lines "Exploit a fan base and call it love/Be controversial but just enough/It sounds kinda like ELO/Get sued but you'll meet a hero." Bringing us back to a classic Nothing But Thieves sound, "Members Only" is a biting track that combines edgy guitar riffs, hostile vocals, and plenty of distortion. The composition sounds like it could have come from any EP or album by the band, providing a solid track for fans that prefer the band's core sound.
As no album is really complete without a great ballad, "Green Eyes :: Siena" gives us just that. The track is a slightly cheesy love song but in a tasteful way. It's filled with lush melodies and vocal lines that will make your heart flutter. Mason's vocals on "Green Eyes :: Siena" are swoonworthy as he delivers the song's sweet lyrics. A brief reprieve from the album's dance club vibe, Dead Club City quickly gets back on track with "Foreign Language." If we were to give out superlatives for songs on this album, I'd have to say "Foreign Language" is the sexiest. The song is laid-back and chill, captivating listeners with seductive melodic material and Mason's intoxicating vocals. "Foreign Language" has an addictive groove driving the track and features an enrapturing synth soundscape with prominent bass lines.
Easily the grooviest song on Dead Club City, "Talking To Myself" slows things down again and gives us the last bit of calm before "Pop The Balloon." It's a mellow, almost melancholic ballad, showcasing funky bass lines that sound even more incredible with a bass boost enhancement. "Talking To Myself" is clearly the calm before the storm as "Pop The Balloon" does a complete 180° from the song's relaxed nature. "Pop The Balloon" starts off with some intense dissonance and quickly settles into heavy, distorted guitar riffs and unsettling melodies. The lyrics reflect previous sentiments regarding the truth about the Dead Club City and how things aren't as perfect as they seem. "Pop The Balloon" is a more aggressive exploration into that motif, featuring repetitive orders to "kill the Dead Club City." Harking back to some of Nothing But Thieves' prior releases, the track follows a similar format to "Can You Afford to Be An Individual?" from Moral Panic. Both songs show off the grittier side of the band, infusing sociopolitical critiques of the real world throughout the lyrics. An intense departure from the sounds laid out by the previous tracks, "Pop The Balloon" is an unexpected, explosive end to the album.
Though the songs depict the Dead Club City as far from perfect, the album itself is. I'm normally weary of concept albums as some bands have tried and failed with them (sorry, KISS), but this one rose well above expectations. Each time I thought I had found my favorite track on the album, the next one would come on and leave me in awe. Though the songs are tied together with their stories and themes, they are all strong enough to stand on their own and be listened to as the individual masterpieces they are. Nothing But Thieves seamlessly moves through a plethora of genres, providing something for everyone to love. Whether you're a hard-core fan or hearing about the band for the first time, Nothing But Thieves never disappoints, and this album is no exception. The gates to the Dead Club City are open wide, and once you step through, you'll never want to leave.
Written By Cheyenne Johnson
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