It’s a well known fact that concept albums are a risky move. All too
often the ideas will get lost in the shuffle of making the songs work on
an individual level, and making them flow together as a singular work
or art; and in the process, themes can become muddled and unclear (see:
Green Day’s 21 Century Breakdown). Achiever, the brand new EP by
Austin, TX-based pop punk band Thieves,
is said to be a concept release based around the idea of facing one’s
inner demons, accepting yourself for who you are, and, ultimately,
becoming a better person. While revolving around this concept is
certainly an easier feat than it would be to create an entire cast of
characters and then not create a coherent story (see: Green Day’s 21st
Century Breakdown), the lyrics and themes are almost commonplace in
the modern pop punk scene already, so it seems a little odd to put an
emphasis on the EP being a concept album.
Thematically, Achiever takes a lot of cues from The Wonder Years
and their “I’m not sad anymore” mentality. If it weren’t for the lack of
the distinct vocals of Dan “Soupy” Campbell, it wouldn’t be surprising
if someone mistook this EP for a release by The Wonder Years. That’s not
entirely true- “Entitled to Nothing” sounds more like New Found Glory!
Jokes aside though, Achiever does follow the posi-punk state of mind
almost down to a T.
Musically, Achiever also takes cues from The Wonder Years, although
it wouldn’t be off to say that it also follows suit with most bands in
the scene: Thieves shine in strong musicianship and a crisp production.
Jumping from bouncy tunes such as “Broken Down, Breaking Ground” or
“believer” to “Bioluminescence”, the five and a half minute tune that
switch tempos various times. Vocalist / Guitarist Billy Canino’s vocals
find themselves on the grittier side of the Pundik-nasality scale,
although Canino shows his range by transforming his strained yell into a
soft croon within the span of three minutes on “The Wisdom of
Insecurity”, one of the release’s standout tracks.
All-in-all, Achiever is a standard pop punk release. Despite being
labeled as a “concept album”, a practice that isn’t all too often found
in pop punk, the EP plays it relatively safe in terms of both lyrical
and musical content. This isn’t meant to be a derisive statement; it’s
just when bands like The Wonder Years having been chanting “I’m not sad
anymore” for over two years now, basing an EP around the concept of
facing personal struggles and becoming better for doing so just doesn’t
come off as that radical. It’s still a good release, the bar just needs
to be set a little bit higher.
RIYL: The Wonder Years, New Found Glory, Transit