Gang of Thieves | Thunderfunk
album review by John Powell
Oh, Gang of Thieves, you’ve really done it this time. Your first two albums were awesome. Soaring guitars, early 90s grunge style vocals, Flea level basslines, and a mix of funk and rock to make a party into a rager. However, now you give us Thunderfunk and it’s just another damn level.
Credit much of the album’s utter success to Michael Rosen, a Californian producer working with the likes of Less Than Jake. The man knows two things: how to make rock catchy and how to mix. Also credit a few years hard touring to tone the band’s skill sets. Thunderfunk pushes the band farther than they’ve ever gone before, often utilizing the “Thunderfunk horns”, or, simply, a horn section. They’ve also welcomed drummer Deven Massarone and added second guitarist Leonard Sokol. Deven is a monster drummer, going for big sounds over tightness, and Leonard interplays with Nick Wood’s now-distinctive lead work.
“Sexy Star Circus” does a nice job of setting the tone, especially in the chorus: “Wild thing/ let it swing/ We got your groove and you’re connected.” It’s funky, yes. It’s also heavy. The guitars are at 11 the whole time.
GoT pushes their sound further by attacking more concrete lyrical themes. On “King In Deed”, singer Mike Reit speaks over the muted bridge, “The only way we can truly make this world a better place is by working together to support the local communities that surround us.” This kind of content never had center stage on any previous album.
The album is beginning-to-end awesome. It’s like AC/DC, Van Halen, or Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you like one song at all, you’re going to gorge on the rest of them. Still, there are two standout tracks, the first being “Cocoa Mocha”, taking on a new sound- Latin horns and reggae verses. The song is an ode to a great cup of coffee, but leave to GoT to make a cuppa joe into a sexy lust song. “I can see it’s passion you need,” Mike finishes off the chorus; “And girl I got your cure.” He sings sensually in Spanglish, gasping, “Muestrame la passion de tu vida.”
“Ambition” is the other rocket launcher. Blind Melon in oomph, it has a complex melody and a chorus with the same kind of screaming beauty that made Chris Cornell a legend. “Singin’ songs of setting suns is only gonna kill the fun,” Mike warns; “So sing for the girls who dance all night.”
Let’s not forget Tobin Salas, who repeatedly reminds us how much bass can bring to a band. The core original trio of Tobin, Mike, and Nick makes for a kick in nuts of frontline energy, and whether it’s the slap bass barbeque of “Thunderfunk” or the epic, epic rendition of “Rise”, with acoustic work and the album’s best vocal performance- they just have it down.
If you like rock n’ roll, especially that big vocal sound, with a guitar solo in every song, Thunderfunk is Gang Of Thieves’ step into the spotlight. I can’t wait for more.
Bottom line: GoT get to their masterwork, a new era for band rich with funk, rock, balladry, and horns. Yes!