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The Thrills, "Big Sur," So Much for the City.

The Thrills, "Big Sur," So Much for the City (Virgin)

Time to get the earwax reservoir checked. If my initial enthusiasm for The Thrills" "Big Sur" is any indication, my aural extremities are overdue for some serious reaming. It's not that So Much for the City is a bad album. It's that So Much for the City completely hides its gems in a wash of feel-good arrangements. This Irish quintet has fallen under the spell of the Left Coast ... y'know, surf, sun, fun, the Beachboys, the Byrds, and Neil Young. Neil Young? Isn't he Canadian? Okay, we'll overlook that one. The California that The Thrills have fallen for was inhabited by The Monkees, The Brady Bunch, and that gosh darn cute Frankie and Annette. The arrangements are straight out of Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, and Burt Bacharach--they even cadge from The Prefab Four's theme song! Their harmonies are impeccable, not novel like The Beach Boys, Beatles, or CSN, but finely honed like the Rembrandts, the Fifth Dimension, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Okay, their sound is IRRITATING!

The last vocals as robust as The Thrills' were those of Jellyfish on Bellybutton, four lush, vibrant, contrapuntal lines effortlessly blending in rapturous ascension. The Thrills are almost their equal with Jellyfish Andy Sturmer outgunning Thrill Conor Deasy for Stronger Lead Vocalist. So is there even one, single, solitary redeeming quality leaping out of the golden throats of Deasy (guitar, harp), Kevin Horan (keys), Padraic McMahon (guitar, bass), Daniel Ryan (guitar, bass, banjo), and drummer Ben Carrigan, the only guy in the band who doesn't sing? Turns out that they may sound like sun and surf, but they write about sharks and undertow. For instance, the effervescent "One Horse Town" simply describes a guy's dispassionate decision to leave his wife and family. Why? "... a one horse town/Does nothing for your state of mind". That's cold. Or "Don't you know, you're like Pete Best/Bitter after all these years, just let it go." ("Your Love Is Like Las Vegas") Even colder.

Turns out they're not so dumb or pie-eyed. You gotta get by the sound, but after that it's worth it. I want to see what they do with their second chance after California's cheap thrills have worn thin.
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Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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