CD Virgin, CDV 2974, 2003, 12 Track
Ever wondered what it would be like if Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan were the songwriters in Teenage Fanclub? It's not a common question, but it is one that now has an answer in the shape of The Thrills.
Given the number of American references that litter So Much For The City, it comes as something of a shock to find that the band actually hail from Dublin. That said, like all good hippies, they have packed up their bags and headed out to California for the duration, and it's the sound of the sunshine state that is the bedrock for the album.
Tight harmonies, breathy cool vocals, upbeat simple tunes, the occasional string section and steel guitar to add an extra dimension here and there... The Thrills have more than done their homework into San Francisco and Los Angeles music, drawing it all together in a retro sound that nods to the seventies but remains firmly implanted in today.
The three singles stand out on first listen as being the main tunes of choice, and it's easy to see why they were released. "Big Sur" and "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)" are satisfying blends of surf pop and country that leave a smile on your face and a spring in your step, while "One Horse Town" has a desperate energy that is sometimes lacking elsewhere on the album.
As for the rest, the general country-boy-goes-to-pop-school sound does begin to grate after a while, particularly on the tracks where the songwriting quality takes a bit of a dip. There may be much praise for the grandeur and ceremony of "Old Friends, New Lovers" and the soft lullaby of "Just Travelling Through". But there is almost as much to criticise in the hilarious full-on cowboy stomp of "Say It Ain't So" (all it needs is ye-haa...), the dreary storytelling of "Hollywood Kids", and the mediocre attempt to up the tempo for "Don't Steal Our Sun".
So Much For The City is a competent and, at times, beautifully rendered album. For every time it blackens its name with a poorly chosen influence, it sparkles twice as bright with a pure piece of pop. The Thrills might not have completely captured the surf life of the American west coast, but the very fact that they're looking there for influences, rather than jumping on the clubs and pretensionsof New York bandwagon, with its east coast nonchalance, is to be applauded and encouraged. --Chris Long
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