Nic Armstrong and the Thieves : The Greatest White Liar
Let me start off by saying that this album is a major contender along with the Brazilian Girls and LCD Soundsystem for being album of the year. I shit you not. If you are an old vinyl collector, your ardency for The Greatest White Liar will be immeasurable to your taste. Hailing from Newcastle, England, Nic Armstrong is a 25-year-old boy genius who displays sterling chemistry with his backing band the Thieves. They display an uncanny ability to intermingle bluesy riffage along with all that is joyfully rustic in music. Most of this album would be a perfect match of what you would expect to hear blaring on a corner of London’s swinging Canterbury Street in the mid-to-late sixties.
Armstrong is perceptibly schooled in all of the music that has been released and recorded in UK between the years of 1950 and 1975. Beatle-esque tunes such as “I Can’t Stand It” reminds one of “Taxman” when you hear the first four seconds of it’s cultivated pop flourish along with the echoing snare drum ripple of the sweet and bouncy “Back in That Room,” a seemingly straightforward commendation to John Lennon consummated with a very chipper three-part vocal harmony and some joyous handclapping. The Thieves show that their boots were made for walking and indeed they do as they stumble into the Brit-folk terrain of Fairport Convention on “I’ll Come to You” with the docile tap of the tambourine, keeping pace with the beat.
Armstrong is even well nurtured in his proficiency for all off the great American music of the last fifty years. “Broken Mouth Blues” is immense in all of its hoedown glory sounding like a stagnant sequel to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” complete with Armstrong’s rambling singing style and a harmonica freak out. Even the glory days of Fleetwood Mac (before Stevie Nicks came along and fucked everything up) are exhumed on “In Your Arms on My Mind.” Grains of sand will be stuck in your ear for about a week after you hear “Too Long for Her.” The origin of those grains of sand being from none other than the sandbox of Brian Wilson with a tender bubblegum serenade and just a small hint of tranquil studio wizardry and breezy vocal harmonies. “Scratch the Surface” has the roosty Americana blues stomp of Leadbelly mixed with some sunshine-pop and if the past has taught us anything, we know that any album from any white Brit boy singing R&B/blues wouldn’t be complete without at a couple of covers. We hear a rip-roaring take of Chuck Berry’s “I Wanna Be Your Driver” and a fanciful jest of Alvin Robinson’s “Down Home Girl” with what appears to be the guitar hook from psych-folk great Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.”
Speaking of Donovan, even the poppiest of psychedelic music is showcased on “She Changes like the Weather” and the jumpy beat of Julian Cope’s “World Shut Your Mouth” amassed with the sonic tomfoolery of the early Kinks on “Natural Flair.” Another trippy haze is ever-present on “You Made it True” which wanders off into a pleasing dribble as seen by fellow countrymen The Coral along with the Hollies infused glee of “The Finishing Touch.”
The Greatest White Liar is a stellar debut from Armstrong and his band. If you are going to see Oasis this summer on their trek through North America, be sure to get there early to see these guys opening for them. Of course if there was any justice in this world, talent would triumph over seniority and Oasis would be the band that would be privileged to be opening up for Nic Armstrong and the Thieves instead.
The Kinks – The Kinks
Billy Childish – I am the Billy Childish
The Yardbirds – Roger the Engineer