Thieves Like Us
The darkly stylish electronic/post-punk threesome Thieves Like Us are named for the 1984 New Order song (as opposed to the 1974 Robert Altman film), and they take more than just their moniker from Manchester’s darkly stylish electronic/post-punk pioneers. Their timely, ’80s-indebted approach has garnered comparisons to numerous dance-pop acts of the late 2000s, including Hot Chip and Crystal Castles, but their mix of gloom and glitter may be most closely aesthetically aligned with the seedy electro-disco revisionists of the Italians Do It Better axis (Glass Candy, the Chromatics), groups who employ the tools and techniques of dance music but seem more interested in evoking hazily decadent atmospheres than inspiring actual dancing. Swedes Pontus Berghe (drums) and Bjorn Berglund (keyboards) met American Andy Grier (vocals) in Berlin’s Mauer Park in 2002, and the trio began hitting the nightlife together, a gang of unregistered expats struggling with the language and culture of a foreign metropolis. Uninspired by the city’s techno-oriented club scene, they took matters into their own hands by DJ’ing together, and eventually starting to produce their own electronic music.
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Somewhat ironically, considering that their tastes tended toward the Teutonic — including vintage Krautrock and David Bowie and Iggy Pop (particularly, one imagines, the arty glam-punk of their Berlin periods), in addition to hip-hop, Factory Records post-punk, and French touch house — they failed to find favor with German clubgoers, and they eventually relocated to New York City. Their first recording, the ambivalently hedonistic, Daft Punk-influenced filter-disco calling card “Drugs in My Body,” made the rounds for several years, seeing 12″ releases on two Swedish labels in 2005 and 2006 before cropping up on Paris’ tastemaking Kitsuné Music in 2007. That same year the trio self-issued an ambient/instrumental album, recorded in Berlin and titled Berlin Alex, but it wasn’t until late 2008 that their proper debut full-length, the moody Play Music, appeared on Austria’s Seayou Records, with a North American release on Shelflife in April 2009. The delay was due in part to the bandmembers living in different international cities for different periods of time, but by 2009 they had all landed together in Paris.
The band was prolific for the next few years, with tours and a smattering of releases, including many singles and 2010’s full-length Again & Again. New label Captured Tracks re-released Berlin Alex in 2011 as Thieves Like Us shifted membership somewhat and worked on their fourth full-length and first for their new label. The group added vocalists Martine Duverglas and Anna De Marco as well as drummer Dani Imhoff for the recording of Bleed Bleed Bleed, a darker album less touched by the rampant electronica of earlier efforts. Shortly after the album’s spring 2012 release, both Berghe and Berglund left the band, leaving Grier to populate the touring version with a series of session players. Eventually, a new rhythm section of bassist Thomas Franklin and drummer Tore Knipping joined the band, and with this lineup Grier recorded Thieves Like Us’ self-titled fourth LP, which arrived in January 2017.