CD Review of If We Can’t Escape My Pretty by IV Thieves

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If We Can’t Escape My Pretty
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: New West Records
Released: 2006
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If there is one thing those British rockers have always done better than their American counterparts, it’s incorporating a classic blues sound into a modern rock style. From the Beatles and the Stones, to Cream and the Who, to Oasis and Supergrass, British rock wouldn’t be British without at least a little American blues thrown in for good measure. That’s probably why critics went gaga over Nic Armstrong & the Thieves’ debut album, The Greatest White Liar – it was chockfull of rhythm & blues influences, with a touch of Beatles thrown in for good measure.

But a lot has changed with Nic Armstrong & the Thieves since then, most notably their name. Now going by The IV Thieves, the band is now much of a cohesive unit, and not just a backing band for Armstrong. Having penned most of The Greatest White Liar on his own, Armstrong shares writing credit with the other Thieves on the majority of If We Can’t Escape My Pretty, and it shows. While Armstrong seemed more influenced by bands from the golden age of the British invasion, his band mates seem to favor more recent British acts – especially one featuring two foul-mouthed mop-topped brothers – and that previously stripped-down blues sound has nearly vanished completely. That doesn’t mean that If We Can’t Escape My Pretty isn’t a good album, it’s just not what one might expect.

Most of If We Can’t Escape My Pretty isn’t going to win any awards for originality, though. From the beginning it’s made abundantly clear that these guys like Oasis…a lot. “You Can’t Love What You Don’t Understand” and “Catastrophe” are two fast-paced rockers that shamelessly homage/rip-off the classic Oasis sound. Luckily for them, these songs make up in catchiness with what they lose in originality. Still though, the whole first half of the album screams, “Look at us, we’re the next Oasis!,” and songs like “Higher” and “The Day Is a Downer” sound so much like Oasis that the IV Thieves almost live up to their name a little too much. And since Oasis made their fame just by sounding like an updated version of the Beatles, those with a more critical eye might see them as nothing more than rip-off artists of rip-off artists.

That’s a bit harsh, though, and but just because a band’s music isn’t exactly the most original in the world doesn’t mean it still can’t be good. Besides, Oasis is only just now recovering from a slump that damn near killed their careers in the states, so someone in the UK has to kick out the jams in the meantime. And more importantly, not all of If We Can’t Escape My Pretty is as derivative as those opening tracks.. Kick-ass blues-rockers “All the Time” and “Have Pity” help show that while the IV Thieves may wear their influences on their sleeves, they can still take off those shirts and create something that sounds much more original and inspired if they want to.

It’s obvious that the name change of Nic Armstrong & the Thieves to the IV Thieves, was much more than just a name change. These guys are literally not the same band they were on their debut record. If you can look past that, though, and change your expectations, you might be a little surprised. This is a good album by a band that still has the potential to make a great one – once they start sounding more like themselves and not like someone else.

~James B. Eldred