IV Thieves

If We Can't Escape My Pretty

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The IV Thieves used to be known as Nic Armstrong & the Thieves. They also used to be a cracking good British garage blues band and their debut, The Greatest White Liar, was an exciting and fun album. Now they are a bland and uninteresting Brit-rock band in the mold of Oasis and If We Can't Escape My Pretty is a dud. Gone is the knife sharp Ian Watson production and the crisp, nervy tunes that both revived and updated the sound of early-'60s England. In their place is a slick and almost bloated arena rock sound with songs that mostly fall desperately flat in the pursuit of big-ness and importance. The reasons why Armstrong changed his sound and approach are unclear but at some point after the first record he decided his buddies in the Thieves (Glynn Wedgewood, Jonny Aitken and Shane Lawlor) needed to join in the writing process, and while it's sweet that he wanted to include his friends, that first album was so good Armstrong didn't really need any help. He could have repeated that album's formula a couple of times before it got stale. He also lets the fellas in the band take more vocals, which is a problem since only Armstrong has a distinctive voice and the songs he doesn't sing sound even more bland than those he does sing. Really, only a couple of songs here make much of a positive impression: "The Day Is a Downer" overcomes some clich├ęd lyrics with a decent hook and a furious vocal from Armstrong, "Lay Me Back Down" is a nice ballad with good vocal harmonies, and "Catastrophe" is a half-decent moody rocker. And that's about it. The rest of the album is filled with songs sporting hooks so dull fish would just laugh at them, a few attempts at recapturing the feel of the first album ("Mother's Dilemma," "Take This Heart") that fail miserably, and a general feeling that Armstrong and his band of Thieves have lost their way. In an attempt to move forward, they cast aside nearly all the factors that made them interesting. The world doesn't need another Oasis; another album from Armstrong like The Greatest White Liar would have been just fine.

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