Thee Attacks - Dirty Sheets
There's a sense that the Thee Attacks could be the blues/garage rock equivalent of The Pigeon Detectives. It's a difficult possibility to be faced with for a band that is so likeable and earnest. But, the feeling that Dirty Sheets can appear, at times, to be a diluted and less exciting meshing together of what has been released previously, doesn't work in its favour.
To make the blindingly obvious comparison to fellow Scandinavian scuzzies, The Hives, is obviously one that is too difficult to resist. This begs the question as to whether there is still a home for a good-time rock'n'roll band? It's too late. It's too soon. On their debut, That's Mister Attack to You, Thee Attacks charmed audiences with some authentic mod posturing, guitar windmilling and what sounded like a soundtrack to A Hard Day's Night. While the majority of the tracks on Dirty Sheets continue to stay below the three-minute mark, Thee Attacks have, this time, opted for a more sexualised lyrical approach that is bolstered by grittier, bluesy licks. In this respect, they often come off sounding like a Black Keys tribute act: 'So Cold' would make a cracking single, but the similarities to 'Tighten Up' in terms of vocal ad-libbing and chunky and 'authentic' retro production are just too familiar to completely shake off.
Where The Black Keys would, on occasion, employ a certain amount of subtlety and ambiguity to cover over any questionable lyrical holes, Thee Attacks unashamedly and paradoxically ask us to: "Never hesitate. It's better to be safe than sorry." It's also interesting to know, that in this difficult economic climate that Thee Attacks are solvent enough to take out "a loan from the bank of love" in 'Where Did All The Love Go', a track that shuffles upon an opening riff that's more than a little reminiscent of The Dead Weather's 'Blue Blood Blues'. Still, it's difficult to shoot down a Danish band for writing lyrics in English that really aren't much worse than any other average rock band fluffing in their native tongue. And besides, lyrics are never really that important in this kind of context and when the band's real strength lies in songwriting: The immediacy of every track from Dirty Sheets ensures that your attention is instantly grabbed and held on to for the album's entirety, even if much of it sounds awfully familiar.
What is a rock band without some good old-fashioned dick metaphors? Fear not, there's plenty right here and the expression of sexuality by Thee Attacks is perhaps best described as "pantomime": The worryingly titled sex offender's anthem 'Stop Saying No', for example, hilariously asks the listener/victim to "bite my bait" which is surely a lyrical highpoint. Besides it being slightly comical, the shallow exploration of sex appears to be a kind of smokescreen that hides the lack of any real emotional connection. Where, say, Electric Six may have gotten away with such low-brow vulgarity due to the jovial burlesquing of machismo rock music tropes many years ago, Thee Attacks defiantly clutch their album cover and stare us down, stony-faced and appear deadly serious of their own achievement and have, in the process, lost some of their earlier charm. It's kind of like that moment in American Beauty when Kevin Spacey's character, Lester Burnham, discovers that the teenage object of his fantasies, Angela Hayes, is far from the temptress she had appeared to be and, stripped of her previously pornographic veneer, is left vulnerable, scared and exposed.
Not to say that Thee Attacks are nothing without their charismatic pouting as again, the songs and the album's pacing stands up for itself. 'Stab' could not be a more brazen and addicting opening track if it tried to be. Likewise, if the groove that propels 'I See Through You' doesn't add a certain strut to your walk to the shops, then there is little hope for you. As a whole body of work, Dirty Sheets is an artistic proposition that is far more comfortable in embracing and engaging your hips and feet as opposed to your grey matter and therefore can only set its sights so high – settling for a short hit of pleasure as opposed to a fruitful and fulfilling romance.
Dirty Sheets, like much of the lyrical subject matter, is therefore the musical equivalent of a one-night stand: A fleeting and familiar wink leading to gratification that is undoubtedly enjoyable for it's brief duration but is still an experience that is ultimately hollow. It's tough to know whether the better approach for Thee Attacks from here would be to mature and further develop their sound, or to simply revert to their earlier louder, faster and zanier guise that initially turned so many heads. While progression is always something to be congratulated and encouraged, Dirty Sheets suffers as a somewhat lacklustre and non-committal compromise of a record that sometimes appears to be, as 'Rock Bottom' states, "drowning in this sea of monotony." Saying that, it would take a real sourpuss to not enjoy Dirty Sheets for what it simply is and I have to respect a band that possesses the necessary nads to cover the entirety of 'Free Bird' live and get away with it.