Let’S Bottle Bohemia – The Thrills

Label: Virgin

Careful what you wish for, they say, because, they reckon, it might just come true. “Brilliant!”, you might utter squarely in return, missing the point but remaining perfectly snug in your ignorance. A genie bobbed cross-eyed out of a Guinness bottle and into the Dublin night a couple of years ago, stumbling into a hapless foursome wearing unimpressive stubble and busy putting the world to rights. The magical sprite, once he’d got their attention and knowing his rightful place in this extended metaphor, naturally offered the group a standard issue 3-wish package. After much deliberation, recognising that the world ain’t as pretty as it always seemed in swingin’ 60’s picture books or on Beach Boys album covers, they called firstly for a return to such carefree times. Second, quite importantly, was that they should become the band at the cusp of this revival. And finally, they wanted beards. Really kick ass beards. The bloke had been locked up in a bottle of stout for who’d-care-to-know-how-long, you can’t really criticise the odd inaccuracy. But didn’t he do well! 

The first record did an accurate enough job of crafting a band out of place and out of time, the banks of the Liffey were literally switched for the shores of the Pacific, their videos filled full of pretty girls and Californian sunshine – a dream made convincingly to order. But there didn’t seem anywhere to go from there, use once and throw away. Only after their Byrds and Beach Boys 60s love-in, and given they still had 3 decades and an alphabet full of catching up to do, maybe there was one place to go. And maybe it was actually quite obvious. The old genie’s finally come through on his beard promise, and with that they’ve swiped their way forward into a 70s rock warehouse – clichés off the peg, denim, leather, suede and pick-and-mixed posturing. ‘You Can’t Fool Old Friends With Limousines’ is Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ on more than one occasion and ‘Tell Me Something I Don’t Know’ is Elton John recast for a TV-movie. No mistaking.

It’s a record that sounds like a band hypnotised, believing their own hype, and with that they’ve lost the vulnerability that the baby-steps of their debut brought, harmony and subtlety sacrificed for fireworks. Though let’s not over-do it, their debut was hardly so classic it couldn’t withstand tampering. Where the record does succeed, it’s especially courtesy of Conor. His vocals, still convinced they were born and bred in Vegas, are chiselled and distilled, tainted and weathered and increasingly creaky, like Wayne Coyne. In fact, ‘Not For All The Love In The World’ takes a good weightless stab at an ethereal, string-soaked Flaming Lips ballad. And his lyrics, while still remaining well short of an Ivor Novello, are culled from a much higher shelf than the unsure clichés of first time around and worthy of being dotted around the inlay card. ‘Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?’ is the only real single on the record, but ‘So Much For The City’ and ‘One Horse Town’ were the same. Just wait for the best–of in ten year’s time.

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Release: The Thrills - Let'S Bottle Bohemia
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Released: 20 September 2004