Nic Armstrong & the Thieves
The Greatest White Liar
English rocker Nic Armstrong sounds like another one of those guys who memorized the entire Nuggets box set of obscure ’60s garage bands and never looked back — or forward for that matter. The buzzy, distorted guitars, the unhinged vocals … he’s got all the moves down. But like a lot of this stuff, a little goes a long way, and the most derivative stuff here is often the least compelling.
“Broken Mouth Blues” is a fantastic, bouncy, primal rock-blues shuffle with a wailing harmonica. Here Armstrong does The White Stripes better than Jack and Meg have done lately. The slightly psychedelic “Natural Flair” also channels The Stripes. The entertaining vocals and unusual change-ups of “On A Promise” make it a keeper as well. “She Changes Like the Weather” is a jangly acoustic toe-tapper that brings to mind Buddy Holly. Nice harmonies highlight “Scratch the Surface,” and “You Made It True” sports the record’s prettiest melody. Armstrong also covers Chuck Berry (“I Want to Be Your Driver”) and The Rolling Stones (the Leiber/Butler-penned “Down Home Girl”).
Unfortunately, blatant carbon copy ’60s rockers like “Mrs. The Moralizer” aren’t as impressive, and the stomper “Back in That Room” quickly wears out its welcome. The album’s nadir, though, may be the generic ballad “I’ll Come To You.” “You and me babe, we’re safe from harm/You and me babe, let’s get it on,” Armstrong sings.
Still, The Greatest White Liar gets better as it goes along. As Armstrong moves beyond the shadows of his influences, he injects some of his own personality into the well-defined parameters of his style of music. Obviously talented and with a sharp melodic sense, Armstrong may be worth watching in the years ahead.