The third album from Essex rockers Nothing But Thieves sees the band at their most experimental, but unfortunately, despite the five-piece’s alt-rock sound shape shifting and shocking throughout the 11-track LP, it is also their weakest release to date.
They certainly miss their first probing swing on opening track ‘Unperson’, a confused contortion of dance and heavy rock that will serve its purpose as a crowd livener, but does little else to entice listeners.
It is a shame that the opening track fails to deliver, as the second comfortably triumphs over its precursor. With riffs reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Is Everybody Going Crazy?’ is a lyrically sharp slab of gritty rock that shows the band at their best.
The high quality of the aforementioned track makes it more frustrating when ‘Real Love Song’ and ‘Free If We Want It’ follow, and reach such painful levels of mediocrity. Objectively, there is little wrong with these songs, they are well-produced and catchy at times, but are far too radio-friendly to make any mark.
On ‘Moral Panic’ and ‘Phobia’, the band again stumble, deceptively promising something of substance with lengthy build-ups, but never delivering on what is teased.
Fortunately, they do not make the same mistake on ‘Can You Afford to Be An Individual?’, where the track’s slow progression rewards listeners with a thunderous crescendo and an outro spiked with politically incisive lyricism.
Despite the album’s inconsistency in quality, it is abundantly clear throughout that Nothing But Thieves’ greatest strength is the excellent vocal range of frontman Conor Mason. It enables the band to deliver bite in gritty alt-rock anthems, but also allows for the softer and more melodic ‘Before We Drift Away’ to work.
Moral Panic is unlikely to push the band to the next level and establish them as heavyweights in British rock, but it offers enough to ensure that they will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
Image: RCA Records