Foreign territories naturally exude mystery and romance. Dubliners the Thrills found California so intriguing that they wrote their whole debut, So Much for the City, about it. Their blatant references in song titles, from "Big Sur," "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)," to "Hollywood Kids," and their Beach Boys-influenced pop made them the best California band that wasn't from California in 2003. The Thrills return a year later with a sophomore album that doesn't directly mention their previous muse at all.
The band continues to write sun-kissed melodies on Let's Bottle Bohemia, with some string arrangement assistance from Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Although R.E.M. is not an evident influence in their music, the Thrills also enlisted help from guitarist Peter Buck to create a fuller sound. In this effort to avoid a sophomore slump, they keep the sweet melodies but add some punch to their lyrics.
They appear to shrug off their Beach Boys influence with the steely distorted guitar and rigid drumming in the intro of "Tell Me Something I Don't Know;" the guitar and drums, however, fall back behind Conor Deasy's lilting voice and gentle keys in the foreground. After the transition from potential rock song to familiar smooth pop takes place, the catchy jangly melody affirms that the Thrills haven't abandoned their influences. The distorted guitar riff in the introduction is the hardest the Thrills rock on the entire album; the pop continues with the breezy but biting "Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?" They are referring to the Corey Haim that was an 80's sweetheart who starred in the movies Lucas and the Lost Boys, but disappeared into oblivion. The Thrills attack the American public's superficial interest in celebrities as Deasy defiantly sings, "I'm Paramount Pictures/I'm Andy Warhol without the peers/hey has-beens/I'm the American dream." All of this criticism dances along to some cheesy disco string accompaniments.
"Not for All the Love in the World" is a gorgeous and lush ballad with pleasant string arrangements that redeem the shame of the strings in "Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?" The stretching and swelling of the blended instruments creates an expansive and mature sound. The Thrills mock Hollywood glamour in "You Can't Fool Old Friends with Limousines" with Deasy ironically singing conceited lyrics in a woe-is-me fashion ("I don't love you/I just love myself") alongside dulcet piano notes.
After touring through the United States several times the California fascination probably wore off; the Thrills are not writing about how lovely and sunny it is anymore. The obsession with the sun is replaced with subtle criticism. The bitterness in the lyrics and the bright melodies are an odd juxtaposition that conveys that the Thrills are hesitant to display their true potential and feelings.
6.1 / 10
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