Hailing from the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas, Surrounded By Thieves take a decidedly unrisky approach to this, their debut album, given that they’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel or create a new genre by being overly "different." However, what they do achieve over the dozen tracks here (13 if you count the "hidden" track) is provide a no-nonsense, no bullshit blend of melodic punk rock which has its origins in bands such as Pennywise and Bad Religion whilst also reminding me of Canada’s the Rebel Spell.
On first listen I was ready to dismiss this as being generic, both in terms of the music and also the lyrical content (decrying the state of the world/economy/U.S.A., etc whilst following the well-trodden path of nostalgia that seems to be creeping into the punk world more and more). On my second spin, or whatever one calls playing a digital copy, I actually got what they were doing. So much so, that I was even able to recall the lyrics I heard during that original, and generally unsatisfactory, play of Prophecies of Greed. On subsequent plays this album morphed into something that seeped straight into my head, refusing to leave as it made me accept that I was initially wrong.
So, there is an element of the generic to the music that cannot be denied. But then, the aforementioned Bad Religion can hardly be accused of blazing a trail of diversity over the years and they’ve done alright for themselves. With a big, strong guitar sound courtesy of Andy Harrison, the tight rhythm section of Chris Chamberlain (bass) and Rich Castro (drums) keep things nicely in line. On top of this pile we find Brandon Buck’s vocals, which have a tuneful quality to them, effortlessly matching the music produced by his co-conspirators, and totally fit for purpose.
Opening track “Suffering” hammers along at a fair pace and sets the tone for most of what follows as it includes a level of catchiness that has the ability to get your feet tapping, head nodding and lungs singing as it progresses. With “Riot,” I’m reminded of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” given that it includes a strong reference to a popular soft drink (this is also a large part of the hidden track on this album which I found quite amusing and shows that the band might be serious but they do possess a sense of humor too); plus it also contains the singalong element that permeates this album.
The final "proper" track, “Bar Song,” shows that going acoustic is the big thing for punk rock these days, as SBT play out a song recalling the old days and associated friends (a theme also carried in the earlier track “Remember The Times” which, incidentally, has more of that great singalong catchiness SBT seems to be able to cultivate). This song has grown on me and I enjoy it now whereas it was the one track that took me more time to appreciate.
Surrounded By Thieves delivered a good, strong album full of melodic punk rock and it does actually give a bit of variety with “Psychotic Mentality” displaying a less conventional punk. This album will appeal to many people who have an interest in the bands named. For me, it’s always good to hear that this particular genre can still produce some highly gratifying music, given the number of bands which fail to move me in a positive way. Apparently this will be available to download (from the band’s own website--for free I believe) and should also be out on CD on Nov. 25.