What will be the next moral panic?
My 2020 album of the year - Moral Panic by Nothing But Thieves
In a world of uncertainty and devastation, almost nothing offers more inspiration than current events, and the British rockers of acclaimed indie group Nothing But Thieves are no newbies to mixing politics, mental health and social struggles with their own experiences and turn everything into great songs. So it's no wonder that this is how the group's latest work, their third album “Moral Panic”, came about. An album that doesn't shy away from putting today's world and its problems in the spotlight.
At its core, “Moral Panic” acts as a mirror for all of us, for a society that has become too idealistic, too “Hollywood” and too afraid to face its darker sides. The opening track of the record entitled "Unperson" literally embodies this. Lead singer Conor Mason talks about the loss of himself in a modern world and the question of his own identity, while he is convinced that a "Monster"To be someone who is responsible for the"public consumption“Is not suitable. The song screams with frustration at the destruction of the youth by the regressive ideology of our world, in which everything "that's not what you think it's worse“.
It's the beginning of a story that continues in the band's all-time hit that year, Is Everybody Going Crazy - a song that couldn't have been released at a better time, just as the world began to collapse amid a global pandemic and toilet paper unexpectedly became a new currency. It's a heavy hitter who has its own dystopian side, but also a sense of comfort that we are still not alone in these times of emotional struggle.
„This is the last day of my life", Follow the words sung by Mason at the beginning of the next track, the eponymous title track" Moral Panic "- a song that proves that Nothing But Thieves have more trumps up their sleeves than they let it seem. Packed with a captivating beat that almost resembles a dance hit, the track feels light and heavy at the same time. The lyrics speak of a state of panic and fear, underlined with an addicting rhythm that makes it impossible not to move towards it.
In the next moment, the album shows itself from a new side, which radiates hope and the discovery of love. The brilliant tracks "Real Love Song", "Free If We Want It" and the enchanting ballad "Impossible", which was recently recorded live as an orchestral version at the famous Abbey Road Studios, let the band look behind the romantic, idealistic nature of love and reveal the unrequited and almost painful reality that many of us have experienced all too often. The songs sparkle hymnically and with unbelievable wildness with triumphant-euphoric melodies, which Mason performs with moving, almost operetta-like vocals, as well as with grainy, impressive guitar riffs that help the tracks to achieve a perfect balance.
The album's biggest surprise - and it could be considered the black sheep - is its number 10 titled "Can You Afford To Be An Individual". Usually NBT like to be the one band that wraps their stories and experiences in metaphors, but with this almost aggressive track the group immediately leaves all thoughts and clues of double meanings behind while Mason yells, "Are you a walking contradiction with a MAGA cap?" and "Who are you to tell us where we belong and where we don't? / And who are you to tell us who we can love and who we can't? Just because your mom told you you would win when you were younger.“It is evident that the song is addressed to Donald Trump, the 45th and soon-to-be-retired President of the United States - a political figure the singer has expressed resentment against countless times. It is without a doubt the most daring track on the entire LP, but also the most surprising as it shows a new side of the Southend-On-Sea-based quintet that arouses a longing for more.
The final track "Before We Drift Away" then feels like the first ray of sunshine in the morning, with a strong classical base and Mason's breathtaking voice that sends a message so hopeful and personal that there could hardly be a better way to finish the album. Suddenly the entire work, which until then had its own expiration date, gets a feeling of infinity, as if it would be there long after all the chaos and destruction have been forgotten and we have all long been gone.
It's this mixture of huge monstrous riffs, energetic, sometimes angry, sometimes loving lyrics and quieter, more thoughtful moments that all come together so seamlessly that “Moral Panic” glows with perfection. It sets a benchmark that for me no other release of this year has surpassed - with amazing lyrics, breathtaking vocals and incredible musicality that brings Nothing But Thieves to the fore as one of the most exciting and fascinating indie rock bands. Born from a time that couldn't be more uncertain, the quintet has created an expressive little work of art that urges listeners to grapple with their own thoughts in order to add a dash of positivity to a constantly darkening world.
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