There’s a moment that most of us would have to confess to living at least one point in our lives, when it becomes startlingly apparent that you have pushed the boat out too far with the ‘state-altering’ substances. It’s that incredibly uncomfortable moment where you start to feel disconnected from the world going on around you. You feel as though you have been submerged underwater and all sound has become slightly muffled and distant. The night suddenly feels wrong and all the people around you enjoying themselves are monsters. The worst thing is that you know there is no way out, no quick fix answer to bring yourself back from the brink.
This is the moment that Thieves Like Us have managed to bottle on album Play Music. With a name coined from a mid 80’s New Order single, its no surprise the album is built on a base of synth and boom blip drum samples. But where New Order strayed towards the more poppy side of electronic music, Thieves Like Us have dived headlong into darker territory.
The precedent is set on opener ‘Programs of the First Part’ where a desolate landscape of sounds surrounds the listener, expressing so much but delivering it with minimal cluttering and maximum simplicity. Vocals are sung in a monotone fashion adding a disturbing sense of gloom and despair. ‘An Easy Tonight’ takes the album to its darkest depths with menacingly sung lyrics like “Come into our world/We can show you what we’re made of” delivering the starkest message of the debauched places they are alluding to. What is great about this album though, is that the tunes are strong enough to keep the listener transfixed. You can come away from listening to the album feeling completely exhausted and drained, but at the same time desperate to find the nearest dance floor. The album often harks back to a Radioactivity-era Kraftwerk in its slow delivery, and enveloping, hypnotic electronics.
Approach it with caution, but if you feel prepared to take the plunge into the grimey backstreet discotheques that Thieves Like Us present, you probably won’t be left disappointed.
Words: Adam Wilkinson