Den Of Thieves

The Trews

Den Of Thieves, the new album from the Canadian band the Trews, is a well-pointed effort. The Trews landed a record deal by playing bars and clubs in their native country, accumulating a fan base of 30-year-old disconnected former rock and roll fans that only get a chance to hear some electric guitar when something comes along plain enough not to offend their colleagues at work or their fiancé at home. The album consists mainly of songs defined by bluesy, well-played riffs, stopping rather infrequently to slow the pace for what is supposed to be the balancing ballads to the rest of the album’s rockers. This attempt at dichotomy fails and the album seems to run as one long, cheap Kenny Wayne Sheppard song, complete with overly repetitive and ambiguous lyrics.

Den Of Thieves conveys a very poignant message about the band that created it. They possess the musicianship to kill a few good bluesy rock songs that’ll warm up a crowd, but as far as headlining goes, this band might as well hold off. The saving grace of the entire album is the guitar work. Clearly that is where most of the band’s talent lies — Den Of Thieves shakily leans on the guitar riffs like a much-needed crutch. The vocals are physically impressive, but the lyrics are sophomoric at best (“A mountain full of feathers/ with no natural skill[?]”). The record will probably resonate best with people who like the sort of benign work of other bands such as The Bodeans, Barenaked Ladies, and Nickelback that take no real chances with their music, and expect no real rewards save for the business end. This is not a thinking man’s band nor a thinking man’s album. It is for the type of person that hears a bluesy electric guitar, basic drum work, and wailing vocals and thinks it rocks. Lest I remind the reader: eggs, flour, and milk make a mess a lot easier than they do a cake.

Highlights include the opening track, “Fire Up Ahead” (because the listener has yet to discover that this is how most of the songs will sound) and the slower more heartfelt ballad “I Can’t Say,” which feels like a breath of air (not fresh air, just air) in the middle of this smothering record. “Poor Ol’ Broken Hearted Me” starts with a Doobie Brothers country-style vocal harmony, but before one can even begin to get excited about something different, it slips right back into the same formula. In the essence of the Trews, I will repeat myself: their songwriting is as basic as it gets and grows old after no more than three or four tracks.

As far as true musical merit goes, the Trews need to focus on the winding, twisting, and tumultuous journey that is music. It’s not a matter of writing 15 copies of the same song with different choruses, and slapping a few serious looking photos on the cover and calling that “edge,” but rather creating a layered work of art that goes somewhere and carries some sort of poignant message. The Trews must focus on this point and this point alone, otherwise they will remain, at best, a pretty good opening act.

~ Peter Fairman

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