Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Only Thieves write heartfelt, upbeat rock on "Heartless Romantics"

March 29, 2011

Oklahoma can’t seem to shake winter off my back (low of 38? When does the “out like a lamb” part get here?), but Only Thieves are certainly doing their best to bring summer my way with their album Heartless Romantics. The band’s jubilant, overclocked rock’n’roll harnesses crashing guitars, towering drums and passionate hollering into a barely contained boil. These are the type of songs sound 85% better with the windows down.

“Discoveries” has a buzzing riff that interlocks neatly with a drum pattern, and the same is true for “All the Sad Young Men.” The former eschews any hint of subtlety and just throws down for the entire song. The latter sets up the verses so the chorus is a payoff.”Pioneer Repair” shows a more pensive side that almost recalls Bloc Party, but the raw vocals invade the space and create a distinctly Only Thieves song.

The title track is a pensive piano rumination, which is somewhat surprising and somewhat not. It doesn’t feel like Only Thieves really mean it when they’re snide; it feels like they’re hiding their wounded hearts in layers of sneer and stomp. “Heartless Romantic” pulls back the veneer and displays the wounds that power the rest of these tunes. It even drops in a heartrending voicemail message from an ex. Somehow, it transcends cliche and becomes gorgeous.

Only Thieves know how to write guitar-centric upbeat rock. It’s not power-pop — it’s way heavier than The Cars or the Replacements — but it hearkens to that time period. If you get your rock on with huge, bright guitar riffs and sing/screaming till your voice hurts while driving around in the country, this one’s for you.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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