Thieves By The Code – Tales From The Green Muse

Thieves By The Code have been around on the local scene for a while, releasing several EP’s and working their way through several line-up changes before settling into the current group of singing guitarist Alex Sinesi, bass player and backing vocalist Stefan Sidoli and Nick Van Vlaenderen who plays drums. Having seen some of the earlier incarnations of the band I was blown away this spring when I saw this current lineup opening up for Clowns and Flash Bang Band at one of The Warren’s late night music shows in the Fringe Festival. It’s amazing how finding the right personnel can hit the fast forward button on a bands development and that night really clarified what Thieves By The Code were about to me. ‘Tales From The Green Muse’ is the first full length release from the band and shows off what they can achieve in the studio, following on from the popular ‘Corner Of Your Eye’ single they put out last year.

'So Slick' opens the album with a quoted sample, although I'm not sure of it's origins the speech, “sometimes rage, fear and love are aroused together at the same time,” is a great introduction to the dark tales we are about to be told. So Slick is a grungey, stoner rock grind with gritty screamed vocals recounting some drug fuelled misadventure. It ends with the lines, 'it's okay to lick the bag, but you don't wanna lick it twice', which I can only assume refers to overdoing it with nasty results.

'The Stalker' takes us in an unexpected direction next, the sludge is gone replaced by distant ambient guitar and sweet vocals. It's much quieter and less manic than what we've just experienced and it makes me wonder if my album is playing out of sequence before the chorus kicks in and the decibels jump up again. The vocals remain softer, but there's a hard fuzzy riff and an Alice In Chains-esque melody to suck us in. There's also an awesome guitar solo on this one with some really cool heavily-effected guitar – I do love a bit of pitch manipulation.

'Black Devil' begins with a harder riff and more sampled dialogue, connecting fire and emotion. It could easily have come from the same source as the 'So Slick' intro. The vocals on this track are more aggressive in the verses and there's a memorable chorus, repeating the line 'now I'm in your head'.

From the title I was half-expecting 'Studio 54' to be the Thieves’ disco number, but instead it begins with some ring-modulated synth that sounds like evil 8-bit computer game music before progressing into a hard rock groove with softer vocals with a close harmony. The “you, me, yeah” chorus could almost be Pearl Jam. There's a rousing guitar solo which feels like it should be fortified by some rhythm guitar or at least a bigger bass sound behind it.

'Must Free Desire' returns us to the full-on ‘balls out’ rock – big, dirty and aggressive it starts with a sample that sounds like it's from an American action movie – “let's play pig” before a gun is cocked and fired with the first snare of the track hitting with the bullet. There are some great synths on this track which add to the eeriness and the vocals repeat, 'stop talking to god I swear' over and over as they become increasingly aggressive. There's a mellower section, but it is full of creepy tension and merely holds us in brief suspense before going back into full-on mode: it's intense.

'Turbominchia part deux' comes, oddly enough, before 'Turbominchia'. Opening with another section of sampled voice, this time talking about marijuana, the track is almost instrumental save for a few jolly ba-ba's. The beefy drums sound at their best here, cutting through really nicely, where in other parts of the album they can, unfortunately, get a little bit lost amongst the walls of guitar.

The title track beings with extended sampled dialogue about 'killing the thieves' before going full pelt into a melodic stoner rock track. It's groovy, full of great riffs and tells the story of a night out at Brighton bar The Green Muse, drinking that demon of drinks: absinthe. 'Triple Negative' is quite a punky number, fast and in your face, with tight choppy sections. It tells a story of giving too many chances to a lover before realising it's time to move on. The track fades on an extremely gnarly solo section.

Next we're treated to 'Turbominchia' which begins with some chunky riffs before breaking into more of a 50's garage rock groove that's quite like the Peter Gunn theme. It's another instrumental, driving forward relentlessly and peppered with sampled voices, this could soundtrack a chase scene in a cop film. The last track, 'Captain Pugwash', starts with a marching rhythm before some unison riffing from the bass and guitar. It's alternately thrashy and clever before it breaks down into a section that's much more chilled out and relaxed, with organs and acoustic guitars that sounds almost like it could be the Mommas and Poppas ‘California Dreaming’, before lurching back into the original groove for a short outro. The hidden track is a jokey 60's sounding acoustic song about a night out spending far too much money on Jaeger Bombs! You can hear moments where the band are giggling to themselves and lead singer Alex Sinesi showcases an impressive falsetto amongst the madness.

Tales From The Green Muse is an impressive debut from this Brighton three piece, although there are a few moments when I feel like it would have been effective to treat the bass guitar and drums with the same amount of detail as the guitar and vocals. But overall the record is a triumph and I hope it goes well for this band, who are one of Brighton’s hardest working live acts. They are launching the album with a free show at Hotel Pelirocco on October 4th.

Adam Kidd