It's often said that electronic music lacks the warmth and feeling of more organic instruments, which is why I'm so glad there are so many musicians setting their sites on completely destroying the validity of that notion. One such band that has injected their electronic compositions with an immense amount of emotion and passion are Thieves Like Us.
Thieves Like Us is an electronic post-punk band that has a uniquely international origin. Two thirds of the band, named
Thieves Like Us have stated that thier debut album Play Music, which was recorded in Berlin, Stockholm, New York City, and London, is "Not an album of easy going club tracks, these songs encompass the emotional highs and lows experienced in day to day life." Thieves like us emphasize that they "exist as people outside of the clubs" and that they "are sometimes shy, lonely, nervous, insecure and broke" and that "Sometimes we feel good and sometimes we are drunk and crazy", and their debut Play Music is their autobiography.
Just like the song that they get their name from, Thieves like us do employ an intensely emotional sound.” Play Music" does embody the highs and lows of life. The opening track "Program of the First Part" ripples with energy and determination. The track starts modestly with just a few spare claps before the driving bass and swirling delayed keyboards surge into place. Their use of minimalist elements creates a strikingly stark and aggressive track. Arpeggios and synths crash over intimate revelations like "You need me, admit it" before the track falls apart in a spectacle of synth and percussion. Thieves Like Us also released a music video for this track that is notable because of it’s use of footage from the seminal 1982 Disney Film Tron. The song races along to Tron’s signature light cycle races and adds much pathos to scenes from the movies’ climactic Identity Disk Battles.
Thieves Like Us inhabit a space in electro/punk that is at once calm and dramatic, like the hero of a Greek tragedy heading to war well aware of the probable outcome. While at the same time their sound is fused at the hip to intensely danceable bass grooves and soothing waves of synthesizer, making a trip to the dance floor seem like an epic journey. There are many examples of this unique sonic combination. One exciting example is the driving number "Lady" where the band adds significant pathos through atmospheric synths and a dramatic drum machine. Following that track is a remarkable spoken word track, called "Program of the Second Part", that features sound sculpting similar to the Blade Runner soundtrack written by the composer Vangelis. Another standout song that fuses serious subject matter with serious beats is “Your Heart Feels”. This song creates an atmosphere as big as a stadium and hooks to match, halfway through the song you’re sure to be singing along.
The biggest highlights of the album are the songs that retain the serious lyrics, but where the sound lightens up significantly. Like the lead single “Drugs in My Body” that bounds along with a giant beat and a repetitive hook reminiscent of Daft Punk. Perhaps the best song on the album is the electro pseudo rap of “Miss You”, that features a theme of reconciliation in a relationship and grooves along on disco bass that would make legendary Italian electro producer Giorgio Moroder bob his head.
Thieves Like Us has released an album of sounds that makes you think as much as it makes you move. The glorious vintage synths wash over each song, intricately wrapping each track in a shimmering wall of elation, love and determination. Thieves Like Us has the most authentic early 80's synth sound I've heard from a modern band and while they might not be the best band from 1981, they certainly are a contender for 2008. Their album drops November 7 on the Kitsune-Maison Label.