Conor Mason leads Nothing But Thieves into their latest musical offering.Nothing But Thieves: Instagram

When Nothing But Thieves came screaming into the alternative indie rock scene in 2015 with their gutsy eponymous album, they made people sit up and listen. Their menacing riffs and lead singer Conor Mason’s soaring vocals quickly propelled them into public consciousness. Thanks to the success of their debut, the band’s second album has been highly anticipated, and Broken Machine does not disappoint.

The album begins in much the same strain of rip-roaring rock that was set up on Nothing But Thieves, with opening track ‘I Was Just A Kid’ and lead single ‘Amsterdam’ featuring heavy riffs and Mason’s now familiar howl in abundance. It’s on the latter of these, and later in ‘I’m Not Made By Design’, that Mason really lets go and pushes his vocals to breaking point, and it works.

The best place to hear just how good his raw falsetto can be, rather surprisingly, is on the more stripped-back piano version of ‘Particles’ which closes the deluxe album, and the acoustic rendition of ‘Sorry’ which precedes it. ‘Sorry’, aside from the fact there’s a vague hint of the viral parody of Nick Clegg – “I’m sorry, so sorry” – is the best track on the album. It’s a slower burner than the other singles but as it grows it shows something honest of Mason and it’s perhaps the track on which the band feel cleanest and the most coherent.

“You can definitely sense the effort was put into making an album, rather than just a collection of songs.”

Coherence is apparent throughout the album, actually. Speaking to The Independent, Mason explained: “We’d have email threads about the length of time in between the fade-ins, it’s insane. And the order’s really important for us, it took ages.” You can definitely sense the effort was put into making an album, rather than just a collection of songs, especially on the standard version; ‘Afterlife’ is a wonderfully tortured final track which eases out the album well. It’s almost a shame that the deluxe version has to ramp things back up with ‘Reset Me’, but it is worth it.

“The impression is that the music can drown out any demons.”

‘Reset Me’ follows the theme of augmented reality that threads through the album, along with ‘Broken Machine’ and ‘Particles’. While some of the songs tackle Mason’s very human emotions, these tracks explore what it would be like to have the resilience and reprogramming of a machine. It’s clear that the idea of resetting, or rearranging yourself and your flaws is a concept Mason is intrigued by, and in other tracks we get a glimpse of why. Usually, though, the impression is that the music can drown out any demons, for him or his listener.

In general, this album pushes more boundaries than the last one. The band carved a name for themselves with their debut, but here it feels like they’re trying to define themselves to a further extent; there’s more variety in the music and lyricism, and more politics, too. Joe Langridge-Brown, guitarist and lyricist alongside Mason, said that “all the songs on the album are things that we’ve gone through or spoken about: Trump, religion, bigotry...” and ‘Live Like Animals’ is an anthem for the disillusioned youth. It features lyrics such as “We put our lives all up for sale / We get our truth in the daily mail” and “We’re gonna make ’em build a wall / We’re gonna live like animals”. Other tracks, such as ‘Broken Machine’ itself, and the deluxe version’s ‘Number 13’ are more experimental rhythmically: they’re the type of songs you have to listen to a few times before you decide whether you like them or not. I did, and I do.

There are influences from bands like The Killers and Muse apparent here, but there is no doubt that Broken Machine is very much Nothing But Thieves’ own. On it, the band branch out and follow the stories of the songs, but without losing any of the musical quality of the first album which saw them to where they are now. Overall, it’s a solid output from the five-piece from Southend-on-Sea, and one that proves they can pack the punch of their debut again and again