AUGUST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
It’s a Great Music Stories first when a band bags album of the month twice within a year – and, more importantly, it’s a tribute to the momentum and work-rate of rising rock trio Theia.
The band was one of our surprise packages of 2017. Released as a single or not, ‘Home’ crashed in as our Song of the Year, an unlikely choice for many ardent rockers – and possibly for the band as well – the song was simply one of those tunes that would never go away. After a first nonchalant play on my Friday rock show in June – a last minute decision to swap it in for ‘Sparkplug’ – the song was requested week after week for four months, gaining a life of its own. The band was surprised by its success – as they were crashing into our Top 10 bands of the year, backed by an enormous public vote. The band is perhaps too humble for its own good at times and whilst perhaps not darlings of some rock media, the simple truth is when people hear Theia’s music they like it.
Following the footsteps of 2017’s ‘Back In Line’ the new album represents another step forward. For me though it’s not more of the same, it’s not what I expected as a follow up. Whereas ‘Back In Line’ easily flowed, in an exciting, catchy but unchallenging kind of way, ‘The Ghost Light’ has a bit more edge and attitude. It needed a few listens, but that’s good. The bands I listened to 20 years ago that surprised – sometimes challenged – me with each successive album are bands I still listen to today. With ‘The Ghost Light,’ the sounds, the mood, the production – they all feel different to the last album. The edge is sharper, the feel more instinctive and the canvas broader. There is more experimentation, greater eclecticism, more purpose and less politeness in the rock that’s delivered. It’s the sound of a band going towards evolution in a positive, brave and intelligent way.
‘What You Want’ kicks off the album – a cinematic taster switches straight into a rock opener with menacing attitude, grinding riffs and buoyant bass. The rousing chorus lines are a signature of many tracks on this album. ‘Mask Of The Day’ reminds me of classic Rush riffs done with a modern twist and youthful verve. The musical thrust and spirit of the album feels different to the last one. Less predictably classic rock, more forward looking. A band that epitomises authentic music making with a album of energy, sublime craft, drawing on diverse rock influences but original in their interpretation and contemporary in the execution.
‘The Revelator’ combines a rich mash of influences, sumptuous blues that transitions naturally into Theia’s own sound and packs an expressive, raw guitar solo – a song could easily have run on for another 3 or 4 minutes.
From the opening run of songs we have expressive rock that carries, at times, a pop sensibility. Well-crafted songs, many could be singles. They start and finish decisively, have confident vocals, tight playing and catchy choruses. In a word – marvellous!
‘Over The City’ opens with a touch of the Fabulous Baker Boys piano action and moves into the new acoustic track for this album, a song that builds in layers. It’s nothing like ‘Home’ – it’s an evolving song that pulls together varied sounds. I can feel a bit of The Beatles in the melody and Slash on the solo. It’s not an ordinary song, it’s not a formulaic rock band song. It’s inventive and does the un-ordinary very well.
‘Bring It Down’ is a signature Theia stomper – a three-piece rocker with attack and arresting grooves.
My two standout tracks from the album come towards the end in ‘No Crisis’ and ‘Children of Change.’ The former is absolutely alive. Gritty, organic – almost primal – and it showcases the chemistry between the band and the soaring level to which they can take their collective sound: A song intelligently conceived and emphatic in its execution.
‘Children of Change’ is the most fun song on the album – simply because it just shouldn’t work …. but it does – and triumphantly so. An audacious move to counterpoint heavy, intense verses with such melodic, catchy choruses. This song is a testament to the band’s bravery to go their own way and to me it feels like the natural album closer.
The album finishes with the opening single ‘Throw Me A Bone’ which we premiered on the Friday Rock Show some weeks ago. It’s a solid song and had an immediate, positive reaction with listeners.
There’s no ‘Some Days’ on this album. nor is there a ‘Home.’ To me the mood is different. There are elements of the last two Theia albums I prefer to this one but, conversely, there’s material on this album that goes far beyond its predecessors – and the intent behind the new material takes Theia to a new dimension. With great artists like Bowie or Queen their careers did not lead to a single definitive album; their journeys delivered tracks spanning their careers that became favourites from various points in a band’s journey. I think the same is – and will be – true of Theia: What’s interesting about this band is their story is one of evolution and with each chapter we’re going to experience something different, something new. To me, this is the hallmark of a band serious about developing their craft: A band that wants to be good, not just famous.
What has impressed me so much about this new album is Theia’s hunger to experiment, to push themselves. Whilst inspired by their heroes they’re not churning out music that’s already been done, they’re not playing to safe formulas and they’re certainly not re-presenting yesterday’s sounds. I have a feeling Theia is a band that will constantly evolve and at a time when many young bands can sound like a tribute to rock’s past glories, Theia will emerge as one of a handful of new rock bands whose music has the power to endure, to live through fashions and to appeal to new audiences. ‘The Ghost Light’ is a milestone for the band’s achievements to date and a calling card on the evolution that’s yet to come.
The Ghost Light is released internationally on 13 July 2018