Black Thistles - Who Cares EP

by Matt Hacke

Black Thistles are local 4-piece, and the named Who Cares (a three song EP) constitutes a portfolio of the band’s sound to date. To extrapolate, rather than having a coherent sound, this is instead the work of a band who haven’t quite figured out what niche they’re aiming for yet, demonstrated in how different each of the tracks are. They are clearly still a work in process, but that is no bad thing.

Opener, Get Ready, Don’t Get Ready, judders along with a Libertines-style jangly indie arrangement, a formerly ubiquitous sound that has more recently been supplanted by that 1975-esque inoffensive pop-rock that is now so well and truly en vogue. I always enjoyed this formerly kitsch sound so it was nice, familiar as it is, for it to make an appearance again here, but this was problematized by the fact the singer never seemed to leave first gear. The vocalization bordered on the emotionless, and it was difficult to feel engaged with the song.

Deerstalker meanwhile leaned more toward the riff dominated alt sound of the Arctic Monkeys, somewhere between albums two and three. It was how I imagine they might have sounded if they’d still spent a load of time with Josh Homme, but decided that they’d develop the sound of Matador rather than try to be Queens of the Stone Age. I enjoyed how this song panned out and whilst at times it seemed to lose focus within the verses, the refrain was decent and reconfigured the structure of the song each time it came around. As I alluded to earlier, strong guitar formed the lynchpin to the track’s construction and, fortunately, these riffs were solid and pleasingly punchy.

Nobody’s Special, the midpoint in the EP, is a more balladic number, which again reminded me of the Arctic Monkeys, this time explicitly Cornerstone from their third album. It constitutes an extremely wistful interlude and consolidated what I feel is the Black Thistle’s greatest asset: their lyrics echo the unconventional, colloquial-yet-insightful flair of Jarvis Cocker or Alex Turner, who they obviously hold in high regard.

The thing that annoyed me about Who Cares was how unexciting the vocalization was when everything else in each song was strong. In the poetry of the words alone there’s reason to keep an eye on the Black Thistles. Hopefully they can replicate that flair in their execution and musicality and we could have an exciting act here in the South West.