Release Date: Apr 7, 2009
Record label: Shelflife
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
On the cover of Thieves Like Us's Play Music is a photograph of a girl passed out at the foot of a flight of stone steps. Though her face isn't visible, the girl is presumably attractive, laying on a filthy floor covered in cigarette butts and dirt, holding an empty glass whose content she has spilled. This picture, by itself, essentially explains the whole feeling of Play Music: another ode to urban boredom, the repetitive and dissatisfying nature of club culture, and casual lust.
Thieves Like Us, a 1974 movie by Robert Altman, portrays a group of bank robbers lost in Mississippi and on the run after breaking out of a chain gang. It also tells of an ill-fated love story between the youngest, Bowie, and a gas-station owner’s daughter, Keechie. The film, though its tone and the time it depicts (the 1930s South) is entirely different, captures something of a young man’s desperation and obstinacy.
Yes, it's another late-2000s band inspired by 1980s post-punk and electro-disco. Thieves Like Us might be distinguished, slightly, by their jet-setting international backstory, some traces of which are audible in these grooves: a sprinkling of synth pop sweetness from Sweden (home to 2/3 of the group); a glob of garish glamour from their erstwhile headquarters in New York City; a fistful of French-touch filter 'n' thump, per their present Parisian base of operations. Most of all, their music is marked by a gritty, beguiling moodiness and seamy decadence that feel somewhat romantically redolent of Berlin, where the band met and formed.
Play Music’s story of misplaced love and desire is set against a backdrop of an arcane urban night club scene, where pretentious clientele throw disdained glances at those in the wrong attire and who are on the wrong drugs; where the enjoyment of the night, should any have occurred, is hidden by vacuous facial expressions for fear of derision at the hands of their post-modern, high-calibre fashion model, business executive friends. In short, Play Music is a detached and ultimately soulless affair; a dance album with no dance, a love story with no love. That Thieves Like Us should connote such trend-conscious imagery comes as no surprise.