Nothing But Thieves have been creating killer music since 2012 when they first formed. Securing support slots for bands like Muse & Biffy Clyro, NBT’s have definitely cemented the new face of “Rock!” With their incredible self-titled debut album being released in 2015, NBT’s have been constantly on the “up” to stardom and with their new album “Broken Machine,” nothing is holding them back.
“I Was Just A Kid” kicks off the album with drums that feel like a stab in the heart (in a good way) blending in nicely with the bass. The rhythmical guitars used creates this really nice unfinished sound to the verses and to me, it makes the song so much more raw. The pre choruses are lovely with the bass being the most prominent instrument making the song have a completely different feel. Conor’s voice seems kind of lazy in the verses and doesn’t really seem like he’s giving much power, but he’s definitely giving the right emotion for the song. The song is clearly about the innocence of a child and being able to make mistakes then, but making mistakes can be hard to understand as a “kid.” As we all get older, we become clear of being “human.” Losing your childhood innocence is a very hard thing to go through, nobody wants to grow up, and you can definitely hear Conor’s thoughts in this song. Energy pumped songs make me lose my mind at concerts and I know if I saw NBT’s play this, I would probably be that person who starts a mosh pit (sorry!)
Only on the second song of this album and already I feel that Conor’s vocals are so special, kind of effortless and always emotional. I’ve been thinking it for a while but Conor’s vocals really reminds me Jay Buchanan’s voice (Rival Sons) as they both have strong, powerful, old fashioned voices… which is definitely what’s missing from music at the moment. “Amsterdam” is the definitely the catchiest song on the whole album (as well as Broken Machine) because you could just listen to this song once and be singing it all the time from then onwards. The verses don’t really live up to the chorus but I think that’s what makes the song so good, because once the chorus starts, it has such a big impact. The generic part of the song is when the vocals start the last chorus and then all the instruments come in at once, which is great, if you do it right, and they definitely got it right. The guitars sliding through chords on the choruses really stick out and as a musician myself, it’s nice to hear different dynamics. The song seems to discuss not wanting to stick to the rules from the “world” but it’s quite hard to stick to reality when we all follow the rules in someway.
“Sorry” seems to be NBT’s pop song in a way, purely because the structure is pretty simple. I say it seems like a pop song just because of the lyrics really. It’s a song about love and we all know that love can be very tortuous. The instruments though don’t sound pop at all, NBT’s definitely fool everyone all the time and don’t let their music fall into the “generic” side. This song is a beautiful adaption of a laid back attitude of “yeah I messed up” instead of the “SCREW YOU!” attitude from the first two songs of the album.
Personally the next song on the album, “Broken Machine” is my favourite. It seems quite a dark, sad song about feeling broken but never having the power to actually give up. The tinniness of the bass sounds very indie, Tame Impala – esque and definitely gives off the right vibe for the song. The harmonies feel electronic and sends off so many “Radiohead rays” and that is definitely a good thing. Broken Machine descends and ascends through keys to create this weird “broken” sound that NBT’s were definitely looking for. “Take a little spark, From a battery, Electricity, And put me back together, Back together…” seems like a cry for help to “kick start me” again, because “I” will not give up. When I said this song seems quite dark and sad, it’s because it is, the song deals with battling anxiety & depression, but never surrendering to it.
Live Like Animals is a bit more versatile to any other NBT’s songs because it’s quite electronic/hip hop, but what I like is that NBT’s actually use real instruments, whereas mainstream chart music is all programmed instruments and just has no emotion to it. The song is a bit more along the lines of dance, trap music which is unusual but I really like how they just decided to put this song on the album which so far is quite alternative rock/indie. The lyrics deal with the fake news that the press release, as well as the state we’re in socially, mentally and politically, not only in Britain, but in the world.
Getting the right name for your song is always important, because to some people, having a cool song title will win the audience over. This song is called “Soda.” The song title doesn’t give anything away about this song and that’s what makes it more interesting to listen too. It’s definitely about dealing with depression as “I don’t wanna be myself, It’s making me so unwell” is a very draining lyric. Conor’s lyrics are very personal and to me as the “audience,” it really makes me feel closer to the music. The instrumentation of this song sounds a bit creepy with the guitars using tremolo effects for some prominent parts. Soda doesn’t seem to have as much power as the first 5 of the album, but that’s what makes the song work, it’s about not having the “energy” anymore.
Instantly the guitars and the vocals are creating the pulse for “I’m Not Made By Design” but as soon as the drums come in with extra guitars, it creates a completely different momentum which is really interesting. It definitely has the edge of being of a Biffy Clyro song as it’s pouring with rhythmically golden math rock elements, but definitely with more angelic vocals over the instruments. This song could be took as Conor pouring his heart out about depression again, but I personally think its about not being able to please someone and for them to want you to change to be in their life.
Particles tells the story of Conor not being able to sleep on tour and becoming dependant on sleeping tablets. I’ve praised Conor’s vocals a lot through this review, but I just can’t get over how soulful his voice is even when he’s in quite a heavy band, plus it works so well! This is definitely the ballad of the album, a bit like “If I Get High” was on their debut album. I was a bit worried when I found out these guys were releasing another album just because of how amazing their first album was, but they’ve definitely kept the momentum going with this album because so far, it’s incredible.
We crack open the next song with a killer, catchy guitar riff which then the vocal gradually imitates. It’s about trying to come to terms with having a mental disorder and always questioning it with “Seriously, when am I going to get better? Does this ever end?” Get Better is similar to Soda is a way because it doesn’t feel like there’s much energy to it. Maybe NBT’s are trying to mirror what having a mental disorder is actually like as they’re god damn exhausting and not energetic in the slightest. Overall, good song, but not the best on the album.
Hell, Yeah is about a safe place, maybe they’re hometown? This song is really powerful and you can hear all the emotions in Conor’s voice with the cracks he makes. It’s a very stripped back song, but I think if they were to put anymore instruments on it, it would have ruined it. Simplicity is sometimes all you need to create such a strong song.
Afterlife gives off a proper creepy vibe which is perfect for the song, because, well, the thought of death/the afterlife really scares me and I know it scares a lot of people too. This emotional song dives through different feelings but the clever chords around the lyrics makes you think if the song is actually in a specific “key.” I’m not sure if NBT’s have ever mentioned Radiohead or Jeff Buckley being influences of theirs, but I can definitely hear that. This song is the end of the first edition of the album and it’s not really the best song for the end slot. It doesn’t really give the best “goodbye” feel.
The bonus tracks on Broken Machine (Deluxe Edition) are “Reset Me” & “Number 13.” There’s also an acoustic version of “Sorry” and a stunning version of “Particles” but a piano version. They don’t deserve to be the bonus tracks because they’re such good songs and definitely deserve a position on the first edition of the album. At least these songs aren’t hidden and people can search/find them easy enough.
The one thing I love the most about Nothing But Thieves is how they use so many influences in their music; electronica, folk, hip hop, anything if you think about it. Broken Machine has definitely become a personal favourite album of mine of 2017.
Score – 8/10
Favourite Tracks – I Was Just A Kid, Amsterdam, Sorry, Broken Machine, Soda, I’m Not Made By Design, Particles