Thief clawed its way to becoming a common name in the Murfreesboro/Nashville area in the past couple years, from performing rather than putting records out. But in August, the foursome collected their songs for a highly polished self-titled debut of ’70s and modern hard(ish) rock that’s as expressive and instrumentally tight as their live show.
Like or dislike Thief’s music, the force of their instrumentation makes listening to the record more like actually stepping into the sound. It’s a sonic lair of muted vocals, cold vibrations, distortions, Brennan Walsh’s glowering guitars, Steve Janson’s cascading drums and Ryan Hart’s thundering bass.
“The Good, the Bad and the Women” kicks off with an infecting Southern rock riff soured with Matt Tubandt’s repetition of “she said she want my body,” a line that seems like it belongs in the ’80s and should stay there. That aside, Thief is filled with proof of Tubandt’s gift with poetic one-liners that make just enough sense but are vague enough to intrigue.
Amid the guitar driven, broken-antennae static of “Bring it Back,” he sings, “Everybody wants you/but no one’s thinking about love.” His vocals sear through the deep bass of “Dirty Riley,” which is probably one of the best lady-of-the-night tunes since Ryan Adams’ “Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues”: “I can feel the warmth in the fire of your eyes/just a spoonful of sugar disguised the surprise….she turns a red light on/she takes her black boots off/she’s working hard tonight/pleasing the neighborhood.”
Riffs shape-shift from cold and pronounced (“Just Won’t Go”) to jagged and slinky (“She’s So Fine”). Guitar is given the most room throughout the record, whether they go hard, like on the opener, or soft, like on the gorgeous, “Crimson.” The tracks don’t distinguish much from one another when hearing the record straight through, but as a whole, Thief’s personality is distinct; it is evocative, dark, emotional and mood-swinging.
*Catch Thief live at Exit/In Nov. 9 with The 1-10s and Tetsuo.