Saturday, 18 October 2014

Album Review - The Thieves Are Babes

by Dear Plastic (out now)

"If you're gonna take a side, take mine." Music lovers who like to take a walk down darker electronic avenues are going to find it incredibly easy to jump right in and lose themselves in The Thieves Are Babes, the debut album from Melbourne 5-piece, Dear Plastic. We've been keeping up to date on the goings on of the group since the release of their Everything's Coming Up Roses EP last year and in that time Scarlette Baccini, Josh Moult, Danny Cox, Cory Mollison and Nathan Clark have done a most excellent job of establishing themselves as Australia's best kept alternative secret. I use alternative loosely because their music transcends many genres and fancy labels, but when you find yourself garnering comparisons to the likes of Bjork and Portishead, alternative kinda fits. And that whole best kept secret thing? Halfway through 'Memo', the first The Thieves Are Babes track, I was wondering how a group with a sound this unique to the current Australian music landscape could be kept a secret for long. The opener feels dangerous and sexy, with Baccini making an immediate impact with her entrace around the thirteen second mark on a performance Beth Gibbons would be proud of. 'Memo' provides that feeling you can only get from trip hop legends like Massive Attack, Tricky and the previously mentioned Portishead. The atmosphere the band creates with the music is both inviting and isolating and this is really exciting because it feels like something that's been lost for a long time in music is suddenly back. 

While you can throw out a lot of comparative or similar artists, Dear Plastic establish their own identity over the course of The Thieves Are Babes. A song like 'Antimatter' perfectly represents their quirky yet engaging style of storytelling. "And in that dark matter, no one could see it happen. Ah, but ever since then, I seem to have lost my nerve. My antimatter, my counterpart, do you think we'll ever fall in love." Fantastic sci-fi tale presented in the form of dark avant garde pop. Yes. A million times yes. Current single, 'Epic Delay', is one of the best songs of the year. Baccini's vocal performance is heartbreaking in the absolute defeat that's present throughout. The simple guitar line in the verses against the explosion of sound for the chorus when Baccini lets loose provides an outstanding contrast that sells the pain. "Where do we go? I won't fall asleep because there's no way to know." triple J... why y'all not all over this? 'Buck Up And The Reaper' steers Dear Plastic towards a more grungey alt-rock sound and there's a whole lot of spite and rage, both reserved and not-so-much-reserved. If there's a track that establishes who Scarlette Baccini is as a vocalist, this is it. We get to see her high and lows, guttural grows, wails and towards the end, an unrestrained force of nature. Not once do I find myself thinking... she sound so much like (insert random name to compare artist to here). Brilliant. 

There are two vocal-free interludes between the track 'Little Seeds', 'I' and 'II' that appear. Breathers to collect yourself perhaps? 'Dead Husband' is really fucking bleak. "I reach out, touch your face, find another man there instead. I don't know what he wants with me, but he isn't you and he doesn't love me. I see through the floor, I'm sorry I'm not here anymore." More compelling storytelling for sure, just super bleak. I feel I just had an Edgar Allen Poe story sung to me. Never fear, 'Bell Jar' and it's surprisingly funky brass-iness will prop you right back up. An electro-brass jam. That's certainly different and also very good. The Thieves Are Babes is closed out by 'Everything's Coming Up Roses', a track we've been loving for some time now and it looks like we'll be loving it for a lot longer. More of an electro-pop number than what has come before, it ends things on a endearingly positive note. After 'Dead Husband' it's nice to know that everything's coming up roses. Give it a listen, you'll understand. And seriously, give this album a listen. And then buy it. Dear Plastic have carved out their own space in the music world and if you're down with what they're selling, go and join them there... it's a nice place to hang out. If you're gonna take a side, take Dear Plastic's. They're amazing. 

Matt Bond gives The Thieves Are Babes four Shirley Manson heads out of five...

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