Only Thieves - Heartless Romantics (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Only Thieves

Heartless Romantics (2011)


Taking a few cues from '90s indie and alt-country, Only Thieves' new album Heartless Romantics takes the Springsteen sound that's been popular with punk bands lately and tweaks it. Sure, they sound a bit like the Gaslight Anthem, but there's Replacements, Slobberbone, Harvey Danger and Uncle Tupelo in there, too. The result is a midrange rocker that can punk out when it wants ("All the Sad Young Men") while still slipping in a piano ballad ("Heartless Romantic").

Heartless Romantics, then, is essentially a tour through Only Thieves' record collection. Turns out they've got good taste. The first few tracks should appeal to many a Lucero fan, what with all the rockin' and/or rollin' goin' on. Only Thieves show pop leanings on songs like "Register", though. Let's put it this way: Many a spit-shined pop-punk band could have written this song, but it would have been overproduced and nasally and complete shit. OT actually give the song the grit it deserves, losing none of their rawness despite throwing in a boner-fried single.

"Pioneer Repair" predicts the record's slower second half, culminating in the piano-laden bummer ballad "Heartless Romantic". "Unsatisfied" picks up the pace in dance-punk fashion because, dang it, sometimes a dude just has to dance. It's a random but welcome addition to the record. The closing tracks, "Bricks" and "What's Wrong" are a little bit longer and spacier. They kind of kill off the energy "Bricks" builds up, but they're definitely "album ender" material.

For all its '90s intonations, Heartless Romantics has certain timeless qualities. The songs are catchy numbers about ladies (more or less). The guitars are loud. The drums are huge. The vocals sound lived-in, but that doesn't stop the band from jamming in plenty of "whoa"s, "oh"s and "ba-ba-ba"s. It is, in summation, a kick-ass rock ‘n' roll record.