When today’s musical magpies look back to the ’80s to steal the sonic shiny items that catch their ears’ fancy, they gravitate toward the Day-Glo sheen of that era’s false promise and anthemic vacuousness. Thieves Like Us, however, are not that breed of pilferer.
Although they steal from the past (shamelessly! gratuitously!), their music is about creating an alternate ’80s that captures the bottomed-out loneliness born of excess and restless indulgence. Their debut, last year’s Play Music, still fooled you into waltzing onto the dance floor, with 808-pounders like “Drugs in My Body.”
Again and Again is a beast of a different color, the sound of a classic New Order or Pet Shop Boys track — if someone had first sunk his incisors in and drained the blood from it. Death dirges like “Forget Me Not,” “Mercy,” and “Silence” manage to be funereal and joyless without appropriating goth tropes. Instead, the way these young Europeans utilize cascading synth figures — which loop and descend like a dying message in the farthest reaches of outer space — suggests a final sad request for one last dance before the inevitable apocalypse. Boredom and forlorn ennui have never sounded so charmingly chipper.