Nic Armstrong & the Thieves are old-school British rockers, digging up classic white boy blues like the early Stones and Fleetwood Mac on "I Can't Stand It," sophisticated pop finery like the Kinks on "I'll Come to You" and "The Finishing Touch," and the four-squared songcraft of the early Beatles on "Too Long for Her" and "You Made It True." They ...
Nic Armstrong & the Thieves are old-school British rockers, digging up classic white boy blues like the early Stones and Fleetwood Mac on "I Can't Stand It," sophisticated pop finery like the Kinks on "I'll Come to You" and "The Finishing Touch," and the four-squared songcraft of the early Beatles on "Too Long for Her" and "You Made It True." They aren't just imitators or slaves to the past, though, injecting their songs with blasts of energy, tons of passion, and if not originality then an exciting approach to garage rock revivalism. Your first clue that they are dedicated to doing things the right way is that they hired Liam Watson to produce at his Toerag Studios. Watson gets a typically punchy and dynamic sound, cleaner than some of his work with bands like Billy Childish and the Flaming Stars, but no less powerful for it. The guitars are like live wires; the drums restrained and bolstered by maracas, tambourines, and handclaps; and the vocals clear and strong. Armstrong has a great voice for this material, able to sound snide and angry on the rockers, light and sweet on the bouncy ballads, and on a few tracks ("Back in That Room," "You Made It True") he conjures up something very similar to John Lennon's raw howl. There are few weak songs and many highlights, like the blue-eyed soul stomp of "Natural Flair"; the witty cover of Alvin Robinson's "Down Home Girl," where they throw the guitar hook from Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" into the mix; the cute "Mrs. the Moraliser," which sounds like a Graham Gouldman-penned Yardbirds track; and the absolutely storming "Broken Mouth Blues," which sounds like nothing more than Dylan fronting the mid-'60s Stones -- only different somehow, and that is the key to the whole record. Between the stunning production and Armstrong's gutsy performance and hooky songwriting, The Greatest White Liar adds up to much more than the sum of all its parts, and is a blast of fresh air that blows away all the dirty hordes who think noise and a howling lead singer are the key to great garage rock when what you really need is imagination, soul, and great tunes. Nic Armstrong has all that, and his debut record is good enough that it is sure to be totally ignored -- unless you just finished reading this, in which case you should be entering your credit card numbers at your favorite online record emporium right about now.... [The U.S. version of the record includes the video for "Broken Mouth Blues" and a extra track: a rip-roaring cover of Chuck Berry's "I Want to Be Your Driver."]~ Tim Sendra, Rovi
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