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Chicago rock-noir stalwarts The Great Crusades will release their eighth album, Thieves of Chicago this Autumn. This band is “coming home” to Parasol Label Group's Mud Records imprint, which released the Crusades’ first album, The First Spilled Drink of the Evening, nearly 20 years ago. Thieves of Chicago delivers demented rockers and a number of the band’s patented dramatic ballads but also ventures into new territory with country and folk flavors and a simmering desert atmosphere.
The opener “This City Is A Shambles Tonight” with its mix of Mott the Hoople and Sister Double Happiness is an all-out rocker. It leads into the hypnotic desert feel of “The Devil And All His Relations,” which could be described as Calexico meets Tito and Tarantula, with trumpets, castanets, Spanish guitars and electrified desert twang. “Sometimes on Sundays Too” is a piece of storytelling folk rock in the Dylan/Lanegan/Cave tradition while “Another Song About You” (with surf guitars) and “Naked Arms” (with Krumm in the crooner role) are a return to desert rock a la Greyhound Soul and Thin White Rope. With “The Right Way to be Wrong,” the Great Crusades raise their level of volume, electrification and punch. The song is a roaring blues rocker based on a riff that’ll remind experienced listeners of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.” “Why Did You Make Me Care?” is the album’s only cover, written by Beck (Hansen), a whiskey bar/sea shanty-type number (think “Alabama Song” in the Doors’ version) with a wonderfully chaotic arrangement of horns and steel guitar.
It’s followed by the title track—slow and dramatic with cello, acoustic guitars and mesmerizing, slightly crazed talk-singing. “Vandalia” is an homage to St. Louis, a former lover and Uncle Tupelo—mid-tempo country rock with beautiful pedal steel and casual vocal delivery by Krumm. After the straight, no-frills three-minute rock of “Time Capsule” and the slow-burn pathos ballad of “Cruel Joke,” the album ends with two very different tracks. There’s the aggressive, slide-guitar driven badass rock of “Til The Needle on the Record Goes to Bed—a hymn for vinyl lovers everywhere—and the steel-drenched, slow country rock of “Old Lovers, Old Friends,” which indeed puts the (virtual) needle to bed after 50 minutes of new Crusades music.