ALBUM REVIEW: Amateur Best – No Thrills

amateur best no thrills

Written for DIY

As a name for an album, ‘No Thrills’ is both pretty good, so far as pun-titles go, and sharply invites like-minded souls to quip about Amateur Best’s début (I say début – Joe Flory was previously better known under the alias Primary 1) by saying something along the lines of “the cover boasts ‘No Thrills’, but listen to the music inside and you’ll know nothing can be further from the truth.” And they’d be cheesy as ‘owt, but they’d be right.

From the off, single ‘Too Much’ sets up the rest of the record as a more off-kilter listen than you may have been expecting – or perhaps not. The usual suspects line up against the wall, both on this track and ‘No Thrills’ as a whole: big, ephemeral swathes of synth wafting through, a steady metronome of a programmed drumbeat, fragile guitars placed carefully and precisely, and the bass down low.

Then there are the curveballs, the ones you don’t see coming, thwacking you in the side of the head and throwing you off-balance. For a start, it’s an – uh oh – concept album! The story of ‘No Thrills’ is a little less lofty than, say, Actress’ ‘R.I.P.’, it’s about an aspiring DJ and full-time layabout, James Best. Hence Amateur Best, I guess. Not selling you? The oddness of the music will: on ‘Too Much’ it’s the discordant brass section, like a late-era Miles Davis record intruding on a Jamie xx joint. On ‘The Wave’ it’s how the song switches gears every thirty seconds or so, like the rising and falling of tides. And throughout, it’s Flory’s mournful, soulful vocals, not unlike his peer James Blake, albeit with a little less love for the falsetto. That’s probably a good summation of Amateur Best’s sound on the whole, really. It’s like James Blake’s album, only you can dance to it.

Or, to put it another way: the cover boasts ‘No Thrills’, but listen to the music inside and you’ll know nothing can be further from the truth.

7/10

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