Current retro rock boasts its fair share of lovers, liars, and thieves, but scruffily handsome Dubliners the Thrills may be the least bashful fakers out there: Friends since boyhood, the quintet took a working vacation in Southern California. When they returned home, they had an album’s worth of high-grade West Coast guitar pop tucked inside the pockets of their vintage jeans; extravagantly strummy tunes titled “Big Sur,””Your Love Is Like Las Vegas,” and “Santa Cruz(You’re Not That Far).”
What’s fun about So Much for the City, the Thrills’ sparkling U.S, debut, is hearing how much California love the band absorbed during their summer break, which recommenced when they recorded the album in Los Angeles with producer Tony Hoffer (who helped English folkies Turin Brakes front like Laurel Canyon cowpokes earlier this year). “Old Friends, New Lovers” makes bedfellows of snarling surf riffs and Van Dyke Parks banjo; guitarist Daniel Ryan flips chunky Pete Townshend power chords in “One Horse Town” to reveal a bouncy lost Byrds song; thanks to a sample of actual birds and crashing waves, “Deckchairs and Cigarettes” kisses like the ocean breeze.
While original West Coast rockers like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jackson Browne wrote songs that expressed drug-culture anguish, paranoia, and occasionally even some rage in the general direction of the machine, Thrills singer Conor Deasy rarely musters more than average indie-boy melancholy. But like their true spiritual forebears, the Monkees (whose theme song they quote in “Big Sur”), the Cali-channeling Thrills are happy mediums; when Deasy complains, over wheezy harmonica and breezy lap steel, that “those Hollywood kids got it made,” he might as well be talking about himself.