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.