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Dead Club City Deluxe: A World Inside an Album

Mackenzie Torres
Nothing But Thieves’ newest album brings a strong concept that pairs with excellent vocals and sound to deliver an immersive listening experience.

This album contains explicit content.

As an avid listener of Nothing But Thieves (NBT) for years, I was not-so-patiently waiting for the release of a new album after “Moral Panic (The Complete Edition)” came out in 2021. When NBT began teasing a new album in 2023 with “Welcome to the DCC,” it’s an understatement to say I was ecstatic. 

NBT got their start in Britain in 2013, releasing a series of EPs over the next couple of years before their self-titled debut in 2015. The band describes their style as “passionate guitar-based rock that balances indie rock artfulness with a pop sensibility.” 

My anticipation only grew when NBT announced the song “Overcome,” but it caused a little confusion for me when hearing both of the songs side by side. “Welcome to the DCC” sounded like a beefed-up commercial for a cultish country club, whereas “Overcome” was true to its title and sounded like a love song about rising above a crueler world.

Once the rest of the album came out on June 30, 2023, however, I quickly listened, and the lack of cohesion between these singles started to make a little more sense. “Welcome to the DCC” was, in fact, an introduction to the album as well as an introduction to the world it is set in.

The entire album is concept-driven and explores the world of this highly exclusive place that sounds straight out of “1984” — the Dead Club City. The tracks “Members Only” and “Do You Love Me Yet?” especially stood out to me as highlighting the theme of snobbish division while also making the subjects sound trapped in their own existence.

Both songs brilliantly underscore this gloomy atmosphere with lyrics like, “On the same side all of my life, what gives?” and “Holdin’ me up like I’m divine before the culture takes a turn, eats me alive.”

The love songs incorporate the same feeling of trapped emotions, which was something I found in “Green Eyes :: Siena.” While this wasn’t my favorite song on the album, the story behind it is definitely one to pay attention to. It’s a melancholy song of infatuation with someone you can never be with, almost like being trapped behind a thick wall of glass you can’t break through.

One of the other, more stereotypical love songs on the album — in terms of the lyrics, at least — is “Keeping You Around,” which is significantly more subtle in its messaging than the others in terms of keeping to the concept. But after listening to the lyrics a little closer, it’s clear that the underlying meaning behind the song is an unending hopelessness that stems from being trapped in a dead end.

Once again, NBT’s genius songwriting leads back to the idea of the Dead Club City just being a facade. Perhaps this is what makes this such an amazing album to listen to, or maybe it’s just the incredible combination of Conor Mason’s vocals and the wide variety of sounds highlighted in each track.

“City Haunts” caught my attention immediately, and I have yet to get tired of the unbelievably catchy intro that leads into the main guitar riff. You get a sense of walking down a dimly-lit downtown street from the deep tone of the bass and guitar while also being thrown into the same scene with the lyrics. 

The only song “City Haunts” is somewhat similar to on the album, at least in mood, is “Pop The Balloon.” It’s loud. It’s aggressive. It’s entirely what you would expect from an album about a prison-like city. No matter how you look at it, “Pop The Balloon” just sounds like a call to war, and the line “Kill the Dead Club City” makes this instantly obvious. 

“Tomorrow Is Closed,” while only the third song on the album, sounds a lot like a goodbye letter or a last wish. The same hopeless tone is present, but it’s fast-paced and made to sound less miserable. 

As for the songs “Foreign Language” and “Talking To Myself,” they both convey the feeling of solitude but in different ways. Each song has a frustrating air to it that puts the feeling of being unable to communicate into words. In this world the album is set in, reaching out seems to be impossible. 

The album was extended this year in the deluxe version, with “Oh No :: He Said What?” released first in January. It was one of three completely new songs on the album, with two stripped versions of previous tracks added as well. 

“Oh No :: He Said What?” has a similar sound to “City Haunts.” but it has more of a pop influence. It could also be stretched to say that it has an almost disco feel to it. Again, the vocals are what make this song worth listening to, and it is one of my favorites on the album. 

“Pure you,” however, is not. It just feels like it’s been done before by NBT. It’s pretty, but I don’t think it adds anything of substance. “Time :: Fate :: Karma :: God” is the same for me. I never click on it first when I’m picking a song to listen to, and I probably never will. 

Aside from a couple of songs that fell flat for me, “Dead Club City” is my favorite album from NBT to date. The story behind it is too good to ignore, and it only elevates what are already great songs. 

Both versatile and powerful, I would recommend this album to anyone.

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