Nic Armstrong & The Thieves
The Greatest White Liar
New West

we didn’t really hit it off, this CD and I. Imagine us, if you will, at a cheesily clichéd restaurant date setting—ignore the obvious impracticalities of turning menu pages with a hard plastic exterior, that’s my problem and I’m dealing with it—instead ponder the resultant meaningless small-talk between two people who quickly realise they will probably never see one another again. Sure, the experience (or the food, at least) may have been bearable enough, but there’s simply no desire for a repeat. This presents something of a difficulty in the reviewing stakes. Or, indeed, the reviewing of steaks.

You presumably want to know what this record is like. I want to tell you—really, I do. But I want to do it in such a way that concurrently justifies the existence of this momentary collection of paragraphs in the first place. Which means this will have to be a self-indulgent concept-review. You lucky people.

Except I couldn’t settle on a single idea. So, just as the most interesting works at artistic exhibitions are always delicate fragments of sketchbooks and notepads detailing the painstaking working process behind a finished piece, I hope the upcoming exploration of my own thought processes will provide a curiously short-lived thrill. Probably followed by a period of confusion and anger. A bit like the one you might get when spying a long-anticipated parcel arriving in the mail only to discover that it is, in fact, a box of wasps.

1) “The Political Satire”
This was my initial, crushingly terrible, idea. Based on the most tenuous premise (the appearance of the word ‘liar’), I planned to pen a deliciously clever comparison between the derivative 60s homage of The Greatest White Liar and the perjury-tastic antics of ex Tory Party Deputy Chairman, Jeffrey Archer. This quickly collapsed, as the only link I could conjure up involved this album and Archer’s books both being rather bland and owing a large debt of thanks to other sources (The Stones/The Kinks and Mrs Archer’s creative writing abilities, respectively). Not quite the devastating attack that the gimp-faced weasel of British politics deserves.

2) “The Secretly Writing About Something Else In Disguise”
Churning out fabulous insights into records lacking in personality is a thankless task. Much better, then, to just spill the contents of your heart and pretend they somehow relate to the object under discussion. I had an elaborate plan to compare various aspects of this recording to classic moments from 48k Spectrum gaming. Instead of referring to the Stereophonics when attempting to convey some of Nic Armstrong’s more dubious attempts at an authentic rock grrrrowl, I would explain that it sounds a little bit like the poorly sampled cry of “Fantasy World Dizzy!” which opens the game of the same title—ie; a gruff old man with a larynx consisting of 90% phlegm. This concept chewed itself up like a overused cassette when I realised that a dodgy metaphor involving Horace Goes Skiing would (thankfully) be lost on nearly every single person in the known world.

3) “The Not As Clever As It Thinks It Is”
In which I would stretch my meagre attempts at creating a thematic review into a whole piece *about* stretching my meagre attempts at creating a thematic review and, by extension, the entire concept of a concept-review. Everyone reading would subsequently drown in a mighty ocean of self-referential horror and forget that I hadn’t talked about Nic Armstrong & The Thieves very much at all. Which is what happened. Or WAS it?

I can tell you’re feeling a bit cheated. Sorry about that. Let me make it up to you by offering a chance to win my copy of this record. Yes! You could soon be the proud owner of this unassumingly fuzz-guitared, gently blues-ey and sometimes arpeggio-riffic nostalgia flashback. I have no further use for it—but it’s possible that you may wish to treasure it. If your town has banned all works produced by British guitar bands between 1965 and 1969, or something.

Simply email my Stylus staff address with the heading “your review was frightfully pretentious and I demand my compensation” and a plausible reason for me to expend postage costs on your insatiable greed. The best reason, decided by myself on a whim, will win the album. At which point I’ll need your address, so don’t bother entering if you think I might use this information for evil and dubious purposes. Such as sending you a box of wasps.

You must also answer this insultingly easy question:

One of these people is not famous for their thieving; but who?
a) Garrett, from the superbly excellent PC game Thief.
b) Robin Hood, notorious English thief.
c) Ronnie Biggs, Britain's most notorious fugitive.
d) Dr. Egon Spengler.

Good luck, readers!

Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2005-07-29
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