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Last year, UK’s finest Nothing But Thieves returned with one of their most ballsy projects yet; concept album ‘Dead Club City.’ Centred around the idea of an exclusive city-sized members only club, the record experiments with 80’s influence production to create a movie-like fully immersive listening experience. Sonic aesthetic aside, the focal points of the album can be attributed to the real-world themes of “advertisement, unity, internet culture, the music industry, ageing and politics” while also exploring themes of escapism and alienation. Each track follows the narrative of different characters of the exclusive society, as told through the music of fictional band The Zzzeros.

The album was recorded and produced by the band’s guitarist Dom Craik alongside collaborators John Gilmore (production, engineering) and Mike Crossey. The record was one of the groups most successful, peaking at #1 on the charts, a huge achievement alongside their sell-out UK tour. Radio juggernaut BBC Radio 1 named the album’s opening single ‘Hottest Record of the Year’ while Radio X awarded the same title to follow-up single Overcome. Welcome to the DCC made an appearance our very own triple j Hottest 100 countdown, sitting at number 95.

Opening track Welcome to the DCC perfectly introduces the sound of the record, inviting the listener in with infectious, disco-influenced sounds. It’s as dark as it is danceable, drawing the listener in to the subculture’s secret underbelly.

Tracks like Do You Love Me Yet? draws production influence directly from ‘80s glam rock projects and their take on what the future would sound like. Think Queen’s Flash Gordon. “Do you love me yet? I’ll make myself a fool for you” sings vocalist Conor Mason in each chorus, satirising the state of the current music industry and its’ soul-sucking commercialised state. Tomorrow Is Closed pertains a more sombre, melancholic sound in contrast to the hopeful tone of Overcome.

The group gets emotional with tracks Green Eyes :: Sienna and Foreign Language. Talking To Myself draws inspiration from RnB whereas the album’s original final track Pop the Balloon is much heavier and crunchier than the rest of the record. The track details the members of Dead Club City rebelling once they realise the city isn’t everything it was chalked up to be. The song grows increasingly more haunting and looming as Mason repeats the lines “We’re gonna shed off the weight and watch it all float away,” before the expansive guitars and the song’s full instrumentation is reintroduced. “Blow up the moon. Pop the balloon. Do it for you. Kill the Dead Club City.” Although it was a strong end to the story, it still left something to be desired.

That’s where the newer tracks come in. Oh No :: He Said What? continues the narrative from the perspective of those running the Dead Club City, and their panicked state. The overall tone of the song is dark and full. Underlying synths create an uncomfortable dissonant harmony throughout, before everything becomes clearer in the chorus. “Oh no! We have lost control,” sings Mason, representing the moment those in power gain clarity on their position. The track is fast paced and driven, creating a sense of urgency.

Time :: Fate :: Karma :: God plays like an 80s movie montage. It invokes the exact sense of what the city’s population would have felt as they began to rebel and reject the ideologies of those in power. The anthemic bop is supported by a driving drumbeat and deep, infectious bassline, hooking the listener in, and aiding with the euphoric overall feel of the song. “I’ve been your plaything for so long… just tell me when you’re done.”

Although Pure You is a beautiful, emotional, stand-out track, it’s understandable why it was left off the original record. Drawing inspiration more for the 1960’s with a more modern-pop edge, it fits awkwardly production-wise amongst the rest of the tracks. It’s difficult to imagine where this expansive slow burner would fit into the narrative, but it adds to the humanity at the core of the record amid its’ dystopian storyline. With a Beatles-esque chord and harmony arrangement, the song invokes the feeling of pure, all-encompassing love in a way many songs struggle to articulate. Mason’s vocals grow and move up his register to create an overpowering proclamation of love towards the end of the track. His voice is isolated as he sings “until my heart explodes”, perfectly wrapping up the exact feeling of the song in its final moments.

The album wraps up with two stripped-back renditions of previous tracks. If you thought Overcome felt hopeful before, this new rendition takes that hope and re-centres it around the raw emotion. This re-imagining of the track without the bells and whistles of the fully produced version forces the listener focus purely on the feeling and the message. “Redefine the pain to something more.” The album ends on Tomorrow Is Closed – Stripped. What was once a fast-paced song designed for dancing through the devastation, this new stripped back version forces you to focus purely on the depravity and hopelessness of the lyrics. With the tempo slowed to almost half the speed, lyrics like “It’s all we’ve got left” hold a whole new weight. The bright guitars are replaced with haunting electric piano, aiding in the overall change in emotional tone. The sparseness of the bridge alone puts the emotional weight of the entire record in one place.

It can be a risk re-releasing album, especially ones with such a complex, detailed story. But ‘Dead Club City – Deluxe,’ the narrative is not only expanded on, but the emotional depth of the record. For avid fans who’ve tirelessly unpacked the themes of the original 11 tracks, the five new additions add new depth to the plot and overall universe Nothing But Thieves created. Do yourself a favour and allow yourself to be immersed in the universe of ‘Dead Club City,’ available to stream now on all platforms.


With thanks to Dallas Does PR

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