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The Thorns

4.2 5
by The Thorns

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Like Crosby, Stills & Nash did a generation ago, Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Pete Droge have come together from disparate parts of the musical spectrum to distill a pure pop nectar that's both bittersweet and beautiful. Despite the


Like Crosby, Stills & Nash did a generation ago, Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Pete Droge have come together from disparate parts of the musical spectrum to distill a pure pop nectar that's both bittersweet and beautiful. Despite the prickly name, the Thorns operate almost exclusively on the softer side of things, winding intricate harmonies around mellow, often acoustic arrangements. The songs deal quite a bit with lost love, most effectively on the wistful "I Can't Remember" and the dulcimer-tinged "No Blue Sky," which perfectly captures the heel-dragging melancholy of a guy one step away from blowing town for good. But The Thorns isn't uniformly forlorn: "Long, Sweet Summer Night" bobs along gently, evoking, well, pretty much exactly the mood set by the title, while "Runaway Feeling" opens the disc with a campfire tone set off by call-and-response vocals. Amidst an album of warmly rendered originals, the trio toss in a loving version of the Jayhawks' "Blue," a masterpiece of dejection that's leavened by the sheer prettiness of the soaring vocal harmonies. The Thorns make a good case for the simple things in life -- and music -- being the truly important ones.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Tim Sendra
The history of rock is scattered with the wreckage of supergroups who turned out to be less than super (and one or two who turned out OK). The Thorns were built in the tradition of the supergroup, though the members are actually less than superstars. Two of the three Thorns, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins, are best known as one-hit wonders (1994's "If You Don't Love Me, I'll Kill Myself" and 1998's "Lullaby," respectively), while the third, Matthew Sweet, has had a career with one great album (1991's Girlfriend) and a few uneven ones. From their soaring vocal harmonies, chiming guitars, classic rock songs, and plaintive lead vocals, the obvious comparison to make is that the Thorns are a junior-league Crosby, Stills & Nash or a more earnest Traveling Wilburys (with whom they share drummer Jim Keltner). Indeed, comparisons to classic rock acts come easily: America, the Beach Boys, Bread, Crosby, Stills & Nash (no Young), Fleetwood Mac, the Jayhawks (whose "Blue" the band does a near note-perfect cover of on the album), and Tom Petty are clearly influential. The Petty comparison is particularly useful because over half the songs on The Thorns sound like they could have shown up on a recent Tom Petty album. "Long Sweet Summer Ground," "No Blue Sky," and especially "Runaway Feeling" have the straight-ahead, chunky rhythm of late-period Petty, as well as the chiming guitars and, above all, the drawled, laconic vocals (Droge at times sounds like he's channeling Petty's voice). That reliance on late-period Petty gets wearying, and it sounds at times like the threesome were more interested in replicating a classic rock band than producing any classic tracks. The most successful songs are those that either embrace their influences so fully that they become glorious reproductions or those that dispense with the idol worship altogether. In the first category is "Think It Over," a sure hit for CSN or America if they had recorded it in the late '60s or early '70s that glides along on lush harmonies and a resigned yet hopeful lead vocal, underpinned by a graceful back-porch rhythm and some Beach Boys-style bass harmonica. It also benefits from what many of the songs here lack, a memorable melody. In the second category are two Sweet songs that venture to interesting places outside the group's somewhat restricted sound. "Thorns" is a fun and bouncy garage rocker that has a bit of attitude and fun; the backing vocals are a real kick. "Now I Know" is a near a cappella song with the group vocals backed by restrained strings. The harmonies, as they are throughout the entire record, are beautiful, and the song is quite affecting and unique. The Thorns have a warm and inviting sound, with entrancing harmonies, but too often there's no substance behind the sound. In fact, despite the good songs and decent performances, it's difficult to escape that classic letdown-by-a-super(ish)group-again feeling.
Blender - Billy Altman
When these balladeers pool their commonly grounded pop-centric resources... the Thorns truly get under your skin.

Product Details

Release Date:


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Thorns   Primary Artist
Matthew Sweet   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Percussion,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals,Vihuela,Marxophone,Baritone Ukulele,Group Member
Jim Keltner   Drums
Pete Droge   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Ukulele,Vocals,Drums,Guitar (Baritone),Group Member
Roy Bittan   Piano,Electric Piano
Paul Buckmaster   Conductor
Ricky Keller   Conductor
Greg Leisz   Mandolin,Pedal Steel Guitar,Mandola,Lap Steel Guitar,Guitar (12 String Electric),Electric Dulcimer
Brendan O'Brien   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Percussion,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Hurdy-Gurdy,Marxophone,Bass Harmonica
Shawn Mullins   Dulcimer,Acoustic Guitar,Percussion,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals,Vihuela,Group Member

Technical Credits

Paul Buckmaster   String Arrangements,String Conductor
Nick DiDia   Engineer
Ricky Keller   String Arrangements,String Conductor
Brendan O'Brien   Producer
Alex Lowe   Engineer
Billy Bowers   Engineer
Dan Rudin   Engineer
Josh Cheuse   Art Direction
Gail Marowitz   Art Direction
James L. Hunter   Graphic Design
Karl Egsieker   Engineer

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The Thorns 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this CD was awesome from start to finish. It was not at all what I expected, it was better, Way to go guys!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was a skeptic when I heard comparisons to CSN&Y, but the harmonies encompassed by many of the songs definately bring up visions of the great band. If you're a CSN fan or just like good, acoustic music with great singing, then you'll like this album.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There's a Special Edition of the Thorns CD featuring a bonus CD of acoustic versions of the entire album, called the "Sunset Session". I liked the original CD, but the bonus disc is truly a revelation. Believe it or not, it costs the same!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever since I lost my first true love, I've been a big fan of Matthew Sweet and his lyrics that so perfectly mirrored my emotions. When I heard this album playing on the overhead speakers at CD Warehouse, I asked the store manager if that was, indeed, the voice of Matthew Sweet. He showed me the new album and I purchased it immediately. Matthew Sweet has never let me down with his albums, regardless what the critics will say. As for Pete Droge, famous for "Spacey and Shakin'" in my book, I find his songs quirky and fun, if not a bit dark. To have those two together with Shawn Mullins, who has had such hits as "Everywhere I Go" and "Lullaby", its a dream group for me. The songs are alluring, they speak volumes on the human spirit towards love and loss. I highly recommend this album to everyone who has hurt at some time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago