The Thrills : Middlesbrough Cornerhouse

The way The Thrills handle their ancient musical runes is vital, affecting, energised and just plain [i]thrilling[/i]...

"There's a guy advertising a The Thrills aftershow across the road," Conor Deasy tells a jubilant Cornerhouse, almost spitting his disgust. "He's charging three pounds to get in. Well, fuck him, we're staying here for a piss-up afterwards and you're all welcome to join us."

a href="">The Thrills hit Middlesbrough in battle mode. Gone are the drippy hippy Brian Wilson disciples with sand in their toes; in their place a well-drilled country pop machine with pure punk hearts pummelling beneath their imitation Nashville cowboy shirts. A burst of stadium lights introduce the distinctly Bruce Springsteen new track 'Tell Me Something I Don't Know' - the Bruce Springsteen' blue-collar holler deliciously replaced by Conor's fragile whimper, like a small orphan dying of some Dickensian cholera. The piano eruption of 'Your Love Is Like Las Vegas' is so breezy it blows Conor backwards like a wind tunnel. 'One Horse Town' is almost Motown in its stompadelic funkiosity. And during a tumultuous 'Big Sur', Daniel pitches forward into the 'casual frugpit', stagedives lazily for a minute and then reappears, not a note missed. No time for modesty, no space for musical mildew here; the stakes have been upped.

The Thrills - like Kings Of Leon and the skinny-trousered children of New York's funk-punk scene - have realised that, though their role in 2003 is to be the fluffy cream filling in rock's retro mudcake, they're capable of far transcending their own influences. Leave the art of hollow pastiche to those The Darkness wankers and the Australians, The Thrills are out to embellish their hairy heritage. A spike of youthful punk spunk in The Band's eyeballs on 'Say It Aint So'. Grandaddy's wobbliest keyboards and a cheeky nod to Rene & Renata's 80s school disco snog classic 'Save Your Love' during the Last Waltz In Memphis that is 'Old Friends, New Lovers'. There's even a thin film of Morrissey's folkabilly panto grandeur glossing their best new tune, 'Down By The River', as if they caught a dose of showmanship from the Albert Hall toilet seats. Though their very auras are rose-tinted, The Thrills' sheer vitality gleams radiantly through.

And, yes, there's misery too. The sweetest. Without ever once dressing up like llamas and trying to make a noise like 'God Only Knows', The Thrills manage to pull off 'Pet Sounds'' masterful trick of capturing merriment at the precise moment it turns maudlin. 'Don't Steal Our Sun' unravels a tale of intense bitterness and frustration ("I hear you're dating Sue/Well you're welcome to") while 'Til The Tide Creeps In' has us dancing on the dockside during some lonely vigil for a lost lover.

You could label The Thrills as summery retro dullards with their heads stuck firmly up Neil Young's arse if you want, but you might as well claim that Robert Johnson thought of 'Elephant' in 1928 or that all Ian McEwan does is just rip off a dictionary. The way The Thrills handle their ancient musical runes is every bit as vital, affecting, energised and just plain thrilling as any Kings Of Leon, Coral or Beach Boys. They're your [a][/a], sure, but plus some. And everyone's welcome to join them.

Mark Beaumont

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