Anachronisms in music are often treated as strokes of genius, but its a slippery slope. When Beirut came out with Gulag Orkestar in ’06, no one could figure out how some 20-year-old kid from New Mexico could write pop songs that sounded like an eastern European accordion bandleader from the 60s. And, it was brilliant. As I watched The Isle of Thieves through a soundproof glass at the XFM offices, I was wondering why a bunch of 20-year-old kids from Oshawa sounded so much like Jimmy Eat World circa 2001.
We sat around for a bit talking about music. They cracked wise and poked fun at each others uniformly gray-scale emo gear. I spent a good portion of the time biting my tongue, trying not to argue about why Pinkerton is better than The Green Album. The Isle of Thieves is a group of guys who refined a sound that is absolutely catchy, commercially viable and teen girl friendly. Thats an alright place to be. I’ll say this as well; the boys are not without insight. Lead singer/song writer Japeth explained his sonic choices to me using a food analogy. While more progressive rock groups might make a bold new lasagna with chocolate sauce on top, The Isle of Thieves would never serve such an abomination to a group of people.
The Thieves are about making music that pleases the masses. The thing is, the sound theyve found is part of a musical movement that’s on the way out. People are through with the Treble Charger/Sum 41-every-level-cranked-to-shit sound. The mainstream began to stray away from alternative distorted guitar driven rock, towards something more eclectic about the time the Arcade Fire found their way onto a Big Shiny Tunes album. The times they are a-changin. The boys sound tight for a young band, a term they dodge at every corner. When I asked their age initially, I was refused on the grounds that they wanted to avoid ageism. I was forced to use my keen powers of deduction, dividing the amount of times the word pubes was used by the time elapsed in the actual interview. I decided they are in between the ages of 19-21 a piece.
I feel that their youth is not a hindrance so much as it is wholly redeeming. Again, I stress that their music is good, just a tad dated. In a couple of years theyve come to a point where they can play on the same stage as pro musicians. Promoters are no longer on their ass about how many kids they can bring out to crappy community club shows with six other bands on the bill. They play at the Hard Rock Café in Toronto this Friday night. I just hope the parameters of their creativity dont crystallize at the first sight of some success. Theyre too young and talented to go down on that ship.
My faith in the group was bolstered when Japeth made a very astute comment about young people, and their desire to attach themselves to a certain kind of music. His reasoning was that during our formative teenage years we have a real desire to define ourselves, and that alternative rock music has always been an outlet for that. This is why teenage girls fall in love with young men they dont know, who play music that is not necessarily always that good. It helps them to know who they are. I cant imagine that a musician with Japeths awareness and the capacity for that sort of objectivity would ever allow himself to be pigeonholed. The game is changing for this Toronto-based five piece. I’m interested to see how they cope. Check them out at: myspace.com/isleofthieves