Stylistically, Well Mannered Thieves’ debut EP Divide the Light is undeniably what the kids these days are calling “indie rock”, but that doesn’t stop them from treading the waters of all sorts of other genres during the 19 minute run of the album. And where the experiments work, they work well. When they don’t, however, it leaves the impression of a toddler trying to sprint before it can walk.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. The first two tracks in particular really are quite masterful. A psychedelic jazz intro leads into the hook heavy “Wink, Wink, Smile”, while a stomping 5/4 riff charges through “Burn my Luck.” It also helps that the album’s production is so pristine it sparkles.
The main problem is that the band does not play up its core strengths enough. Up until the third track, vocalist Lira Rose, whose voice is actually quite compelling, is essentially relegated to the position of a glorified synthesizer. Bassist Brad Wedekind, who weaves his way through the first two tracks like a snake, is also effectively benched for the remainder of the EP.
“Red Dresses” is a head-scratcher. Essentially a four chord radio ballad, it sticks out like a sore thumb on an album that has up until this point defined itself (more or less) as a rocker.
“Too Damn Easily” shows off some compositional prowess and boasts a strong chorus, but the 80s synth intro is a little bit too out there to forgive.
At least they end on a strong note. “Twisted Letters” is a minimalist guitar and vocal piece that is hauntingly beautiful.
The thing is, a lot of what Well Mannered Thieves try to pull off here might have worked better on a full length album, where all the ideas and sounds presented on the short EP could be brought together more cohesively. Here, the listener is bombarded with a mix of tunes that are somewhat disconnected from one another.
Written by Syd Ghan