The Thrills

Teenager

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As the title of their third studio effort plainly indicates, the Thrills have grown up significantly since the release of their last album, Let's Bottle Bohemia, in 2004. In retrospect, they'll admit that more than a year's break was needed between the release of their multi-platinum debut So Much for the City and its follow-up; their commercial prospects took a dive, and the youthful optimism which shone through their early work as bright as the Pacific Coast sun was broken beyond repair. Their music still recalls a uniquely American stable of songwriters -- Buffalo Springfield, the Beach Boys, Jackson Browne -- but it's no accident that the influence of Manchester idols the Smiths has emerged more strongly than before. Winding Johnny Marr-like guitar lines add a sense of melancholy to the brighter sounds of piano, acoustic guitar and mandolin, while the rhythm section has beefed itself up considerably, rendering the opening paring of "The Midnight Choir" and "This Year" among the most aggressive tracks in the band's repertoire. Frontman Conor Deasy has finally repaid the faith placed in him by longtime fan Morrissey, reaching a level of introspectiveness and brutal honesty scarcely imaginable on previous albums. "Should've Known Better" sounds as if it could have emerged from Neil Young's Tonight's the Night sessions, as Deasy repeatedly proclaims "I envy your youth" to the backdrop of slide guitar and sparse, unyielding piano chords. The album was recorded in a converted morgue in one of Vancouver's most deprived neighborhoods -- at the suggestion of R.E.M. -- and the image of youthful idealism meeting cold reality is too perfect to ignore. It's a good thing too; adversity has brought out the best in the Thrills, and Teenager can stand as the group's crowning glory to date.

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