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The Thrills: So Much For The City

Album: So Much For The City
Label: Virgin

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The members of The Thrills come from Dublin, but only by a technicality. For all intents and purposes, they come from a California of the mind, one summoned up by playing old Neil Young, latter-day Byrds, and Beach Boys records again and again. As research, the band set up shop in San Diego before cutting its debut album, So Much For The City, but reality seems not to have intruded on its ideal land of sunshine and heartache. When frontman Conor Deasy sings about San Diego, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, or that California retreat, Las Vegas, he does so with the same misty reverence that Robert Plant used to reserve for songs about Valhalla and Middle Earth. Not that The Thrills' music shares much else with Led Zeppelin. The band has as much use for banjos as electric guitars, but when its songs take hold, its winsome pop can be overwhelming, too. Joining jangle, chime, and fussy orchestration to Deasy's plaintive vocals, So Much For The City plays its best cards early. "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)," "Big Sur," and "Don't Steal Our Sun" start the album off like a classic, offering unshakable pop melodies matched to songs about good times on the verge of going bad. Eventually, though, it burns out. The second half largely sounds like a lesser reprise of the first, as The Thrills' appropriation of older styles starts to feel less like inventive borrowing than a lack of imagination. But while it burns, it burns brightly, and with a little work, the band could find itself an heir to the tradition it loves, instead of just functioning as a long-distance admirer.