|Thirsty is the creation of unlikely songwriting partners Guy Bailey and Irina D. Described by Led Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole as “the most uncompromising artist I have worked with”, and conversely, by former Quireboys manager Sharon Osbourne, as “a pain in the arse”, Guy is the founding Quireboys guitarist who gives Thirsty its parched vocals, sparkling blues guitarlines, and an unfaltering faith in the powerful immediacy of the 3 minute, 45 rpm, single format. Irina is a Russian poet whose dark lyrical narratives bring an atmospheric, arthouse edge to proceedings. As Thirsty, they present a uniquely louche and literary take on the timeless blues-based rock ‘n’ roll template, which is fleshed out on record by some of the finest musicians in British rock.
Drummer Simon Hanson (Death In Vegas, Squeeze), bass and keyboards man Chris Johnstone (The Quireboys), and backing vocalist Lynne Jackaman (Saint Jude, Jackaman) round out the sound, while esteemed Stones producer Chris Kimsey completes the dream team on both their self-titled debut and the imminent follow-up, ‘Albatross’.
Released in 2015, ‘Thirsty’ was an elegantly dishevelled cocktail of East and West European flavours (with lyrics delivered in both Russian and English), mixing high art influences and underground rock hooks, and telling strange, often disturbing, slices of real life and true history, such as the chilling account of a botched lobotomy performed on JFK’s wayward sister Rosemary in stand-out track ‘God Bless America’. Brooding, beguiling and evocative, ‘Thirsty’ was an intoxicatingly moreish concoction, which won them high praise from the rock press, and a continent-spanning cult following.
Now, Thirsty are ready to order up the second round, and this is the point where things start to get looser, louder, and just a little unpredictable. Out on November 7th, via Thirsty Music, second album ‘Albatross’ hears the band in the groove and more expansive, as they add strings, harmonica, violin and accordion to the rich mixture. The album title, which is taken from opening track ‘The Albatross’ - a number based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, also points towards a progression in Irina’s lyrical approach. On the Tarantino-esque ‘Albatross’, the preoccupation with the stranger side of reality that dominated the debut is replaced by homages to some of Irina’s favourite writers of fiction, and fresh plot twists for reimagined versions of her most beloved literary characters.
‘Chaos’ identifies a character who was inexplicably left out of the original draft of John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, and offers him a theme song of Exile-era Stones style duelling blues guitars, and soulful backing vocals from Lynne Jackaman. More ambitious still is ‘Orlando’, which explores the idea that the titular sex-changing character and his/her creator, Virginia Woolf, became one and the same person. Whilst growing as a lyricist, Irina has also become bolder as a vocalist on ‘Albatross’, and in addition to contributing backing vocals on three tracks, she takes the lead on ‘Cosmic Aphrodite’; an aching lament sung from the perspective of a stranded astronaut longing for his imaginary wife. Haunting, otherworldly, and powered by Chris Johnstone’s sweeping keys, the duet contrasts Irina’s sultry, breathy voice with Guy’s deeper, raspier tones.
As they’ve explored new inspirations and arrangements on ‘Albatross’, Thirsty have also retained and developed some of the most exciting elements of their debut. Chief among these is the warm, organic sound that takes its lead from the Stax recordings of the sixties (an influence most evident on Simon Hanson’s rich, deep drum sound), and gives the album an air of live intimacy, rather than studio sterility. Once again, the raw, authentic atmosphere was fostered by producer Chris Kimsey, whose retro production values are well suited to Guy’s classic songwriting methods. A firm believer in the notion that following strict, yet simple, structures produces the most creative examples of any artistic discipline, Guy set himself a three-minute target when writing songs for ‘Albatross’, densely packing each of its concise tracks with enough dark melody, emotive musicianship, and earworm hooks to intrigue the listener and leave them wanting more. It’s an approach which reaps plentiful rewards, from the simple, yet unforgettably catchy piano refrain on ‘Say It Ain’t So Joe’, through the Dylan-esque troubadour balladry of ‘Beat of Her Heart’, and the downbeat and elegiac ‘Shore of Light’, which utilises violin to create a sense of seething drama.
Guy comments, “I’ve wanted to do this for years... Making the second album was much easier for us - mainly because the first Thirsty album is a great blueprint. It has to be lots of fun to make. We keep the music sounding as live as possible. Apart from that, our only rule is that there are no rules.”