The Thrill Of It All (1997)
A lot had happened in Thunder-land since the release of Behind Closed Doors a year or so previous. A compilation album with a couple of new tracks (Higher Ground ‘95 and the charting single In A Broken Dream) entitled Their Finest Hour… And A Bit signalled the end of the EMI years of Thunder’s career. A deal was signed with Castle and Thunder suddenly had their own B- Lucky label.
A change in personnel saw Mikael Hoglund has to part ways with the band, and Luke is left to cover the bass parts for the recording of this record. Chris Childs would be recruited in time for the tour and has stayed ever since… and a mighty fine chap he is too. Handy with crayons and designery stuff too, I hear… but I digress… I remember this album a lot as I attended a album launch party in Edinburgh and won a swag bag full of Thunder goodies, which I still have to this very day!
Opening with Pilot Of My Dreams, the scene is set. It’s business as usual for the guys, with a great riff, rolling bassline and solid vocals. This is the sound of a band firmly in control of their own destiny, and for me, it shows. The only gripe I have about this track is that it was possibly a missed opportunity – I always thought this would have made a great single, and it still sounds good to this day.
Living For Today is a slight departure, as the first voice you hear on lead vocals… is Luke. Yup, Danny takes a backseat (or if you see it live, I believe he plays maracas at this point…) and Luke puts his own more than adequate voice in the frame. This is another song I love – the guitar work on this is simply fantastic. It’s just so well put together and executed, and just so essentially Thunder at heart. One of the highlights of many on this record.
Love Worth Dying For is the first slower track on the record, and would prove to be the second – and last – single from the album. This is the beauty of Thunder – they are just as adept at playing a more introspective, soul searching number like this as the full on, faster rocking numbers. Great vocals, and a dash of always welcome organ courtesy of Mr. Matthews makes this for my ears one of the finest tracks Thunder ever committed to record.
Following that, weirdly, is the lead off single from the album, Don’t Wait Up. Now, here’s a bane of contention for me. I never really felt that this was anything great on record. There were more deserving tracks on the album to be released as a single. Of course, played live, this song is a monster… but at the time I didn’t really dig it as a single. It’s by no means filler material, far from it – I just didn’t get into it as much as a couple of the other tracks included here.
Something About You is an often overlooked track in my book. It’s a great, bluesy, rambling monster of a song. The lyrics tell a tale of a man seemingly running away from love gone wrong and his friends trying to rally round him and get him to stay. Occurs to me that he may be joining the army? Maybe just my take on it… really interesting take on the usual love lost stories in songs. I love the feel and the texture of the guitars on this track, and it’s still one of my favourites on the record.
Welcome To The Party… well, what needs to be said? If you’re a Thunder fan, and you saw them live during this period, or saw the live DVD – you know this was the set opener, and got the crowd jumping from the off. Perhaps the most obviously political song Luke wrote, it’s a foot-stomping, fist raising anthem to the rise of ‘New’ Labour. Course, they’ve just turned out to be like every other political party in the intervening years, but that’s a tale for another blog and another blogger. This cat is happy just writing about the music… and in this case, the music is good.
The title track weighs in next – and again, time has been really kind to this. The one thing that’s even surprised me is how well this record has stood the test of time. I haven’t really listened to it all the way through, but all the songs are still in memory like long lost friends. This is a classic track, Danny’s vocals on this are sublime. There seems to be a Pink Floyd-ish feel in places, and hey, that’s no bad thing. The Thrill Of It All tells a tale of love actually in the middle of going wrong, and finding the strength to know when it’s time to call it a day and walk away… Thunder’s take on the break up song? Undoubtedly, and it really works well. Just brilliant.
Then comes Hotter Than The Sun. Not sure what vibe the band were going for here, but it comes across as a bunch of guys, confident in their skills, loosening up from the shackles of what is their perceived genre and just really, really having fun. And you know what? It works. I love this track. The funky riff and bass-line combo get in your head and stick there. Again, seems to be a very pessimistic take on relationships – not wanting to admit defeat because your lady is fine looking? A noble tale indeed!
Entering the home stretch now, and with it comes one of my favourite tracks – the epic, sweeping This Forgotten Town. A truly amazing chorus is the centrepiece of this track, with great harmony vocals and subtle, yet powerful delivery from Mr. Bowes putting the icing on the musical cake, if that’s not mixing too many metaphors. For me, this was the precursor to future Thunder classics – and hey, that’s no bad thing.
From the sublime to.. Well, not ridiculous. Cosmetic Punk just never gelled with the rest of the record for me. It would have been a good B-side, but I can’t honestly say it deserved a place on the record ahead of say, “Every Word’s A Lie” or “Somebody To Love”. That’s not to say it’s not a fine crafted track, as let’s face it, all of Thunder’s songs tend to be – it just doesn’t fit in with the record, and I’ll be honest, it’s one of the few tracks that I tend to skip past.
Maybe skipping past it is because I know what’s next – the final track on the record is to this day one of my all time favourite songs, Thunder or otherwise – the awesome, incredible, heartfelt You Can’t Live Your Life In A Day. For my money, Thunder have never written a greater song than this. Seriously. I absolutely love it. Danny’s vocals on this push him into the elite band of rock singers – ever. I just can’t express how much this song makes me tingle in a special place usually reserved for climbing the rope in gym class… erm… that’s probably too far!
And of course, the Moonlight Club interlude at the end of the disc? Well, it’s probably worth buying the disc for just to hear Danny’s Basil Brush style giggling fit as he proclaims himself to be Ozzy Osbourne!
So this record, their first post-EMI, could have signalled the beginning of the end for them – but instead it became a statement of intent from a supremely confident bunch of people – and signalled that they remained a force in British rock music. Time has also treated this record well – it’s aged incredibly well, and stands up as one of their finest moments. Exceedingly highly recommended!