The Thin Men
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The Thin Men

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Album Review. May 18, 2003

HOTEL (GlowB) * * * *

At a guess. The Thin Men's Blair Jollands spent his youth soaking up both Elvis and his noir-ish indie descendants, Alabama 3 and Jon Spencer, then whizzed them through an Antipodean blender for a hybrid just this side of pure cheddar. Its hard to judge how seriously this bequiffed New Zealander takes his vocation, but whether he's playing it for laughs or not (camp-as-butlin's gospel howls on Ice Cream City suggest he sees the funny side), much of his debut is pure magic. His bleak baritone on the unadorned Augustine induces goose-bumps, as does Eye's of Blue, a silky country love song that conveys a faint sense of dread in the manner of a dream half-remembered. Jollands captures (or adeptly imitates) Presley's southern gothic melodrama, no small achievement for one born 12,000 miles from Memphis. Smashing.
- The Guardian.


NME 22nd March 2004. Album review. * * * *

The Thin Men. Violent Love. (Kitchen sink saved for second album)

The Thin Men's Blair Jollands is a kiwi born songwriter so infatuated with art-crooner Scott Walker that he’s released the kind of album Scott would have made if he’d looked at NME’s 100 Best Albums. The result is Bizarre and Spectacular. Among the experiments there’s a nod of the head to both Leonard Cohen (Jerusalem) and The Strokes (its produced by Gordon Raphael). And even when it fails hideously, at least it’s got its eye on the stars (Killer Landings is a cod-Bowie nightmare unfit for Brett Anderson’s trash bag).
‘Violent Love’ may seemed stocked with glamour-glazed ambition but it’s the pedal-steel drenched country ballads like ‘Beautiful Day (like tomorrow)’ that really leave the heart staggering down a red carpet towards Nick Cave’s stash of moonshine. Classy.


What’s On In London. March 19th 2004. * * * *

The Thin Men, fronted by Kiwi born and raised Blair Jollands, take the best of contemporary and retro and add touches of indie to the melodic twang of country. Yes, think David Bowie meets Crowded House and Willie Nelson. ‘Eyes of Blue’ is particularly poignant and tender while ‘Bitter Girl’ would fit nicely onto a best of David Bowie set. ‘Killer landings’ sounds like that duet between Bowie and Willie Nelson. Lush Strings, trumpets, horns, piano and Blair’s sumptuous vocals lift songs like ‘Eyes of Blue’ ‘Gems’ and Jerusalem up to great pop heights. The punchy and energetic ‘Songs of Violent Love’ (The best single I’ve heard this year), is perfectly complimented by the lively breaks that kick off ‘Arena of My Soul’. And for Country flavours, try ‘Swampman’ and ‘When the Devil arrives at my Door’ (which sounds like a Willie Nelson cover). An awesome work.
- What’s On In London


The Guardian. Friday Review, March 21st 2004. * * *

Maybe it’s the Solitary confinement of growing up in New Zealand that’s led to Blair Jollands developing multiple personalities, each of them based on a music icon. Like Wurzel Gummidge trying on different heads, his voice flirts with Scott walker’s sullen majesty, embraces the weathered beauty of Willie Nelson and chews on the elastic vowels of David Bowie. And the music is equally transmogrifying. Arena of my Soul has the skewed delivery of the White Stripes and the spirit of Johnny cash, its backing vocals stolen from 1960s soul classics, while gospel-delivered lyrics shine with purity amongst the grubby frenzy. Jollands doesn’t believe in subtlety and despite the abundance of eclectic influences, a thread of sparkling campness runs through each song. Bitter Girl’s dramatic strings mirror Jollands’s high, pained vocals – the song expansive yet slippery. But it is the rock opera of Killer Landings that prove the ultimate fulfilment of Jollands’s grandiose vision, creating the warped and spacey sound of bowies Major Tom free-falling into a Mexican border town, a pedal steel guitar sighing as it watches his tumultuous crash-landing.
- The Guardian


The Guardian. Saturday March 1st 2004. Live Metro, London * * *

After a decade concocting singularly haunting blues-flecked pop, The Thin Men (essentially New Zealand ex-pat Blair Jollands) was rewarded with a central London gig and a guest list peppered with the cream of the C-list. Tara Palmer-Tompkinson and Fame Academy’s David Sneddon are to be congratulated for their discerning taste, which raises the prospect of Jollands shrugging off his under-performing niche status.

That said, there is a substantial difference between facing down a handful of celebrities and actually selling records. His first album, 2001’s elegant and overlooked Hotel, languished unbought in a year of Cold play and Hear’say. Can the new one, Violent Love, establish him as the southern hemisphere’s Scott-Walker-with-a-twist-of-Jim-Morrison?

He did not get much chance to prove himself either way here. Shoehorned into a half-hour slot that allowed just seven songs, Jollands seemed acutely aware that the clock was ticking. He could have made much of his passing resemblance to Morrison, but focused instead on ploughing through the set. It was a misjudgement: the eerie, reverb-laden vein tapped by Violent Love deserved to be milked with as much drama as possible.

The opening Arena of my Soul and Gems were perfunctorily trotted through with scant regard for atmosphere. I should stress that Jollands’s singing and guitar playing, both bluesily moulded by a stint in New Orleans, were up to scratch; The problem was that time constraints prevented him and the backing trio from coaxing the music into full, moody life.

The found their feet a bit during the second half. Jollands, who had hitherto been glancing apprehensively at the audience, finally relaxed into character. Wrapping delicate paws around the mic stand, he glowered satisfactorily on a violently rocky Songs of Violent Love, and by the closing Killer Landings was oozing attitude. As the song faded into the refrain, “It seems that I have fallen into you”, Jollands seemed transported. So he got there in the end.
- The Guardian - Live Review


'everything but you' - single 2002; / More Protein

'Hotel' - LP 2003; More Protein / Glowb

'Songs of violent love' - single 2004; More Protein / Glowb

'Violent Love' - LP 2004; More Protein / Glowb

'Out of Fashion' Highgate project - collaboration with Boy George 2004

'Arena' - LP 2006; Glowb Records

Pre Violent Love broadcast history includes Play-lists on Xfm + Xfm live session with Clare Sturgess. London live play-listed with support from Gideon Coe and Gary Crowley plus promotion from Boy George and Jonathon Ross on Radio two and Boy Georges’ Kiss Fm sessions. Live Television performances on Sky Digital ‘Where its at’ and BBC2 Play UK.
Plus Play-listed on Kataweb radio in Italy and plays on Radio around Europe. Also play listed on Various stations in California, USA.
Guest Vocal appearance on Boy George’s recording collaboration “Out of Fashion” with DJ Judge Jules
Guest Vocals with British DJ and production team The Away Team on Single “Pump” and album.
Remixes of Augustine by The Away Team.
TV broadcasts of Planet Harem and Everything but you on Channel 4 TV drama TEACHERS episodes 6, 8 & 9
TV broadcasts of Ice Cream City on BBC drama PARADISE HEIGHTS plus broadcasts on AUF WIEDERSEHN PET


Feeling a bit camera shy


Patumahoe’s a market garden ghost town on the outskirts of Auckland city, New Zealand. Blair Jollands was born and raised there till he was 15.
He got a job mastering Rarotongan ragas and splicing beats for aerobic models. Started writing songs, playing the guitar. He played the folk clubs and coffee houses up and down the country – acoustic guitar and harmonica, sometimes with FX pedals as accompaniment and Andrew sisters cloning. His influences? Too many to mention without leaving someone important out. Johnny Cash, Bowie, Beck, Elvis, Dylan, Wainwright, Al green, Gypsy music, straightjacket fits…any sound that harnessed passion.
He recorded his first album in 1994 and took it and his guitar to the U.S.A. busking from Venice beach to Manhattan. San Francisco bay to Memphis. Got lost in Las Cruzes and taken in at El Paso. Fell in love in New Orleans then dumped for the man at the house of blues. Met Tom Waits on Burgundy. Arrived in Greenwich village for the CMJ festival. Played for a pizza and a tour of electric ladyland. Left JFK London-bound. Hit Heathrow with 30quid and a map of Soho. Started playing at the folk-antifolk houses – bungies, the 12-Bar, the Troubadour. Britpop was peaking and Jungle was rattlin’ windowpanes. He set up a studio in a converted garage in Portobello and recorded his second album, called it Hotel. - formed a band and called it El Hula - bringing in fellow kiwi guitarist Rhys Hughes. They got a manager by the name of Steve Fargnoli. Fargnoli co-wrote purple rain – managed Prince - Sinead O’Connor – World Party. El Hula got signed to Boy Georges Label More Protein and put out their first single ‘Everything but you’ followed by the Hotel LP. Jollands wrote some more songs and this time the band teamed up with Strokes producer Gordon Raphael. Together they recorded their third album ‘Violent Love’.

Its 2006. Boy George moved to NYC, More Protein shut shop so Jollands moved everything over to his own label Glowb Records. They changed the band name to TheThinMen to give voice to a new collection of songs and a new band line-up.

The Thin Men are Blair Jollands, Rhys Hughes, Cymon Reid on drums and Johnny Hillier on bass.
The new album is called Arena. It was entirely self-funded, recorded and produced. It will be released on Glowb Records through Shellshock Distribution in the UK and selected European Territories in June 2006.