Following the success of their sophomore album Broken Machine, the difficult third is always a big moment for any band and as Nothing But Thieves’ frontman Conor Mason confirmed in a recent interview with Phoenix FM, the pressure of writing a third album was certainly felt.
“I think we went through a lull, putting pressure on ourselves to be Nothing But Thieves. We were struggling to want to write because it felt like doing it to have the pressure of success alleviated.”
But, after some time out, the band reunited and approached things differently. “Why don’t we just do what we always do and have fun?” Conor explained “So we just decided we have the creative leniency to do what we want. Then the third record was born because we had fun and we were just being creative.” It is this creativity that brings so much to this band, a distinct sound that spans an entire musical spectrum with a wide range of influences and styles all on show in Moral Panic.
Tracks like “Is Everybody Going Crazy?” and “Can You Afford To Be An Individual?” provide a riotous soundtrack with hooks and riffs that stick in your head for days and lyrics that hold up a mirror to society, capturing the current climate and, as their titles suggest, posing a few relevant questions. There are some huge anthemic moments and this album packs a punch that could level a three storey building but with two cracking albums worth of songwriting credentials in their arsenal, Nothing But Thieves have clearly enjoyed experimenting with the varying shades of their signature sound.
“This Feels Like The End” and “Free If We Want It”, like much of this album, extends far beyond a solid riff, great hook and all round belter of a tune, they pack a message between the lyrics to educate listeners, and harnesses their clear ability to connect with us through their expert songwriting.
Then things go from good to great, with one of my favourite singles to date combining everything there is to love about Nothing But Thieves in the aptly named “Real Love Song”. With a pounding beat and a building verse we’re able to absorb an entire emotion through our ears and during a euphoric chorus showcasing Conor’s immense vocals we hit that spine tingling big one. Another unforgettable track that’ll have you reaching for the repeat button endlessly. You’ll find the same effect with “Impossible”, a track that takes the uplifting notion of “Free If We Want It” and almost feels like a reprisal of “Real Love Song” – another intense wave of emotion that builds everything in to a celebration of victory that will surely be the soundtrack to somebody’s wedding before long. Plus, if you’re as taken by these two tracks as I was then you’d love the phenomenal orchestral version of “Real Love Song” and “Impossible” also available on all the usual streaming platforms. The orchestral arrangement takes everything to a wholly unparalleled next level that only truly great songwriters and performers can achieve.
Showcasing the experimental edge of this album, the title track “Moral Panic” lends itself to a mainstream audience of club goers and much like “There Was Sun” is surely destined for a tirade of remixes, beaming like a strobe light through the dry ice of 2020 to every waiting nightclub from Southend to Ibiza. “Phobia” definitely has shades of Billie Eilish with a lesson in how to take that whispery vibe to another level. The layers mount, the tempo rises, we’re shaken, stirred and it even feels like James Bond might’ve stopped by.
The album is filled with songwriting and music that’s matured with the band and it’s perfectly evidenced in “Before We Drift Away”. It feels like a wise lesson in life and it takes us on a journey of emotions reaching a conclusion that seems to be what compels Nothing But Thieves in their songwriting; to take this moment, capture every bit of the feeling and turn it into something with its own unique features but always and most definitely into something truly memorable.