Mint Records, 2008
Vancouver’s The Organ shared that same shadowy intellectual existence that made them sound like a darker version of The Smiths, without Johnny Marr’s trademark flair and Morrissey’s veiled humour. Helmed by singer/lyricist Katie Sketch, they created a delicate sound that brooded and pined, Sketch’s lyrics reading like private diary entries turned into song, and it was a sound that outlived the bands existence, but not their appeal.
A sudden farewell seemed appropriate, in that The Organ’s sound often hinged on the unexpected feelings and emotions that course through our lives. Having lived with the band for all too short a time, their debut (and only) album Grab That Gun seemed wholly unique – a quintet of women playing an organ/guitar led sound that was both insular and gloomy, Sketch fronting a band of outsiders that seemed burdened by their desires.
It’s an odd and rare occasion for a band to go their separate ways and then reunite to tie up loose ends for a posthumous recording. An unworkable situation with inter-band feuding and being unable to sign a label in the States were the seeds that led to their untimely demise. A rumoured release of demos by their record company and with fans clamouring for unreleased material led them back to the studio to finish what they started, and for what began with an EP, its appropriate they end with an EP. Thieves is neither a celebration of the band or a wake for their passing. At best it’s a mixed postscript, a collection of tracks written before the demise, but with the exception of one song, never fully recorded.
“Even in The Night” relies on Sketch’s vocals to feed the track as Jenny Smyth lays down a hymnal organ piece. This is as clear an indication of what the second album could’ve sounded like. There’s a sedate, comforting vibe on hand, Sketch intoning ‘it’s gonna be alright/even in the night” and an absence of guitar until the second half of the track which plays out a gentle repeated coda. “Oh What a Feeling” pales in significance, noticeably up-tempo, the instruments fail to find their groove, breaking down in the middle and restarting as a completely different song.
“Let The Bells Ring” was a track which appeared on a 2005 single, and of the six tracks here it’s the weakest offering, playing up to the Smiths comparisons with a “Reel Around The Fountain” drumbeat and sullen lyrics. The interplay between the organ and the guitar was often what made The Organ work, lending to the overall feel of the band, but here it sounds uninspired. “Fire in the Ocean” and “Can You Tell Me One Thing” sound as good as anything from Grab That Gun, both capturing the original spirit of the band, Sketch sounding particularly out of breath on the former as it bristles with urgency.
The final track “Don’t Be Angry” begins like a bedroom demo with Sketch alone on acoustic guitar but as the track progresses, little stabs of organ and electric guitar rise to fill in the empty spaces. Sketch’s aching voice singing “All I want was here, now it’s gone”. Its place at the end is appropriate and is unlike anything they’ve recorded. Lyrically it could be interpreted as Sketch saying goodbye and moving on. It’s hauntingly beautiful and sincerely sad. A fitting farewell.