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Gang of Thieves

Album review by John Powell

gang of thieves rhino

Although I was attending Club Metronome in Burlington, VT to review the two headlining acts, the minute I heard Nick Wood’s fiery guitar, I couldn’t help but turn my attention to the four-piece openers Gang of Thieves. For half an hour I was blasted with a throwback to the glory days of grunge and punk rawk.

The Burlington-based group is indeed a nod to everything from Nirvana to Blind Melon. For instance, vocalist Michael Reit’s long flowing hair like Robert Plant circa Led Zeppelin II, and bassist Tobin Salas, reminiscent of early Offspring. For the self-released Gang of Thieves, most assuredly, Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers have been father figures to this motley crew.

The album opens with the aptly titled “Born to Be Loud;” Nick’s feedback and drummer Cornelius Florucci thrashing away from second one. “I got no promises to keep,” Michael sings over a funkified rhythm section. It’s apparent early on that Gang of Thieves has the rock n’ roll formula for success, namely, a vocalist with pipes and a guitarist that can shred. Zep had it. Pearl Jam had it. Soundgarden mastered it. Gang of Thieves carries on this somewhat forgotten tradition. “Born to Be Loud” eventually rouses into a thumping reprise and sing/screaming. A guitar solo follows, and the song ends in a blaze of glory, much in the way Guns N’ Roses wrote songs: everything was just an excuse for that end guitar solo.

“Sexify” screams of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Michael doesn’t hide his love of that style of sing/rapping, not to mention that the song title and content are very Peppers. “Place your bet on my desire,” Michael growls like the horny rhino that graces the album’s cover.

In fact, many of the lyrics throughout the self-titled debut are raucous songs about lust. For example, and most explicitly, on “Filipina Girl,” Michael croons, “Bless my ability/to rock her virginity,” and later, “She was on her knees/sucking my dick with a college degree.”

Most of the songs have these witty lyrics, with added slick rhymes, and delivered with speed and a heck of a lot of charisma.

The album’s best song might also be its biggest downfall. “Rise” sounds too much like the Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge” to be coincidental. Nick’s opening lick and the melody thereafter are too close to its predecessor. Michael even sings, “The world’s all around me/here by the bridge,” which may or may not be an ode to the original, and all this is a shame because it’s the only moment on the album where the Gang slows down. Michael’s voice really shines and Nick proves he has the precision, and not just the power.

Too often, their musical choices seem almost rip offs, and I’ve never been a fan of the fast-paced metal side of this genre, which the Gang leans on more often than not.

Tobin and Cornelius keep the whole event rolling. Lots of crash cymbals and constantly moving bass lines keep the focus and help define the group’s overarching sound.

"Native” is a prime example of the band’s coherency. There’s a bit of slap bass, a heavy dose of kick drum, and Michael groaning, “If I just stay down and let you carry on abusing me/then who the fuck would I be?” Such middle finger to the Man is the Gang’s M.O. They might be stealing one too many great ideas from the West coast’s best, but they don’t care, and that makes them even cooler.

At the time of Gang of Thieves’ release, most of the group wasn’t even 21 years old, which is a testament to their studying their role models, taking an example, and trying their luck. Hopefully they find a way to harness the sound they love and make it their own. Time will tell and Gang of Thieves will become a remembrance of where these boys started.


+3 # Dave 2011-02-26 21:19
Gang of Thieves is one of the greatst albums i ever heard! gotta love that funk/rock style! Bringin it back is the way to go! too much music now a days is commercial no talent nonsense with a decent vocalist...GOT is true talent and musical genius. i disagree with your comparison of Rise and Under the Bridge but I know this band has been influenced heavily by RHCP. That being said.. KEEP THE FUNK ROCKIN AND STAY TRUE TO YOUR MUSIC FOREVER!!!


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