Then Thickens

Death Cap At Anglezarke

Written by: TL on 01/09/2014 18:02:46

Here's a review in which I'll start with an apology for being late, for while I can't always know of records as they appear, I was actually made aware of "Death Cap For Anglezarke", the debut album from Chorley, UK-based Then Thickens, when it originally came out back in April. Back then it was described to me as the next hyped thing in indie rock, yet via sloppy organisational methods that I have since corrected, it was "lost under a pile" of other releases - perhaps because I never saw the mentioned hype anywhere? As dear editor PP recently reminded me however, I committed to reviewing the album, and being one to make good on my obligations I have caught back up with the British group, who paradoxically have secured distribution via Universal Music Group, yet have an almost secret-like facebook following of only around 1500 people.

And that's not the only enigmatic thing about this band, because if I was to go by their sound alone, I would never have placed them in England - Not with their rootsy, even folk-tinged indie sounding more akin to Canada's Wintersleep or the Americans from Band Of Horses or My Morning Jacket. The drums keep the instrumentation reigned in tempered, mid-tempo movements upon which mellow, almost country-like male lead vocals narrate the songs with the sort of approach where the lyrics are more expressive than the fairly laid-back delivery - The kind where lines about taking a shit or doing coke prick at your mind and stand out from a performance that otherwise sounds sober in contrast, even more so considering the calm and persistent female harmonies that accompany the leads.

The good news here is that Then Thickens sound fairly unique and thoroughly developed in the tone and identity that characterises them as a band, and if I didn't know any better, you could easily convince me that this was the production from an established group with a solid budget and a well known label at their back - Not a debuting group from Northwest England. The bad news is that for too much of "Death Cap At Anglezarke", the level of excitement brought on by the composition seems exactly like something you would expect to experience in Sleepytown, Lancashire, with descriptions such as "drowsy" or perhaps even "poorly resolved" being ones I find my mind attaching to the material. For a full six tracks, I honestly feel that once you've familiarised yourself with the tone and atmosphere, it's going to take some rather deliberate effort to connect even with the repetitive choruses.

Fortunately things take a turn for the better with the single choice "Worms", which immediately sounds warmer and more lively via a good guitar/piano interplay, and the following "Tiny Legs" has that lurking bass presence that actually makes you feel like the band is building towards something. A similar description can be used on "Run Off", which also features a hopeful climb in composition towards a near-climactic finish that feels properly resolved for once, and things then end, comically or ironically - take your pick - when "A Wasp In Your Mouth" caps off the album with perhaps the catchiest refrain so far, highlighted via a pretty simple yet effective composition.

To be fair, all bands have some experiments to do before they even begin to figure out their identity and their strengths, and this is likely to always lead to some songs where the main achievement is that they were actually put together and finished. That said, opening your debut album with six songs that feel like this, is obviously going to make it hard to make a lasting impression no matter how refined your overall soundscape is. The notion that you're only as good as your worst song is one that I would have perhaps considered, while giving thought to whether an EP release with the four or five best tracks would have shown the band in a better light. As it stands though, "Death Cap At Anglezarke" is too flat out dull for too much of its playing time, to the point where it either makes its few good moments feel better than they are, or conversely help to drown those good moments in the rather uneventful surrounding material.

Download: Run Off, A Wasp In Your Mouth, Worms, Tiny Legs
For The Fans Of: Wintersleep, Band Of Horses, My Morning Jacket
Listen: facebook.com/thenthickens

Release date 05.04.2014
Hatch Records

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