Thursday - Topic

War All the Time Play

While the number of youthful groups of men in form-fitting T-shirts performing pensive, often anguished post-hardcore music punctuated with arty lyrical references has become overgrown and/or ridiculous in the past few years, New Jersey's Thursday deserves props for putting all of its fragile eggs in a huge, well-appointed major-label basket. War All the Time, its Island debut, arrives grandiose and gatefolded, with moody, urban impressionist artwork and a thank-you list that lasts for miles. Helmed by longtime Thursday producer Sal Villanueva and mixed by Rumblefish, the album rocks on the dynamics between singing and screaming, between rage unleashed and thoughts cast inward. Lyrically, the band's earnestness is admirable. "In the spring, you will bloom, like her heart"; "We'll douse ourselves in gasoline and hang our bodies from the lampposts" -- coupled with musings on suicide and life's never-ending grind, vocalist Geoff Rickly and his mates are providing diary material for 10,000 lonely teenagers. But despite its righteous gospel, startling dynamic shifts, and hurtling minor-chord choruses, War inevitably begins to resemble one long, 40-minute song. Touches of programming, plenty of overdubs, and some piano do help to separate things, especially on the raw, dirge-like "This Song Brought to You By a Falling Bomb," a respectable brother to U2's "October." But an identically spiraling guitar line twists its way through both "Asleep in the Chapel" and "Steps Ascending," and despite his emotional delivery and obvious erudition, Rickly's bloodied-knuckle lyricisms start to run together over the endlessly crushing mid-tempos. The framework of the new, thinking man's hardcore movement that Thursday marches in is guided by the principles of its martial predecessor. Uniformity in style and the common themes of disaffection and social rebellion have always rallied the youth around the records. But as more and more groups climb out of the steadily glowing underground embers and bask in the glow of major-label fireworks, that signature sound is becoming dangerously homogenized. Credit Thursday with an album that doesn't dilute its lyrics or fervor. But in the quest for a new musical rebellion, the song is starting to remain the same. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi

Common Existence Play

Although initially a leading light in the screamo/post-hardcore scene, Thursday began to transcend that movement in 2006, when A City by the Light Divided introduced an emphasis on dynamics and melodic nuance to the band's sound. Three years later, Thursday continue to buck trends with Common Existence, another melody-focused album cut with longtime Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann. Common Existence bears some trademarks of the band's classic screamo assault, but those aspects pale in comparison to Fridmann's own contributions, which help replicate the massive, multi-layered production found on his recent projects (including MGMT's Oracular Spectacular and Longwave's Secrets Are Sinister). Keyboardist Andrew Everding plays a key role here, his synthesized chords laying a gauzy framework for many songs, while frontman Geoff Rickly shows a good deal of restraint as he emphasizes singing over screaming. His voice sounds downright epic during "Circuits of Fire," where alternating time signatures and walls of guitar distortion find some middle ground between Brit-pop, emo, and (bizarrely enough) the anthemic prog of Dream Theater. Elsewhere, "Time's Arrow" pairs booming snare hits with ethereal harmonies, while songs like "Resuscitation of a Dead Man" and "Last Call" throw a bone to fans of the band's earlier work. In keeping with Thursday's evolution into a fierce alternative rock group, Common Existence is a somewhat streamlined release, with Rickly's screaming vocals only serving to punctuate the brief moments between more melodic segments. Critics of A City by the Light Divided will surely find fault with this album, but Common Existence is largely an enjoyable record that gives as much attention to mood and melody as muscle and might. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi

Full Collapse Play

Thursday displays a peerless version of the emo sound for a music scene that may not be ready for what the band has to offer. Full Collapse starts out with a warm, daydreamt piece, "Understanding in a Car Crash," that might give listeners a feeling that they are listening to a more modern, upbeat version of the Cure. While generating intelligent music, Thursday does its best to skirt the line of emo-pop without being unexciting or blasé. The key to this possibility lies behind the music that Thursday creates. Lead singer Geoff Rickly's vocals are smooth yet not immature, strong while not being overbearing. Icy sharp backup screams catch the listener off guard. The melodic-to-crunchy guitars followed by the well-engineered drum sound and rhythmic bass only add to the fray. Tracks such as "Cross Out the Eyes" lull the listener with the thought that Thursday may be another in a long line of monotonous emo-pop bands; however, at the appropriate moment the guitars start to feedback and the screams kick in. Taking emocore up a notch, Thursday is not afraid to develop a sound that the independent music scene has been in favor of for quite some time. Full Collapse is a breath of fresh air and has the potential to be liked by fans of harder music everywhere. ~ Kurt Morris, Rovi

Five Stories Falling Play

The release of Thursday's Five Stories Falling EP offered a convincing argument for the New Brunswick, NJ, band's status as true comers in the hardcore rock hierarchy and unequivocally proved their mastery at creating tumultuous, anthemic emo-rock, built upon a fiercely confrontational affront and a melodic subtextual base. Albeit, Cure influences are readily palpable throughout (most apparent in the leadoff track, "Autobiography of a Nation"), the five-cut disc (featuring four live tracks from their 2001 Full Collapse CD, and one unreleased studio recording) showed Thursday's astonishing ability to completely captivate a live audience while also allowing for a fully realized demonstration of their cathartic guitar-heavy sound, replete with sentimental takes on impending death ("Standing on the Edge of Summer") and unreserved, freely vented rage ("Jet Black New Year"). ~ Roxanne Blanford, Rovi

No Devolución Play

Representing a serious sea change for post-hardcore/screamo outfit Thursday, No Devolución finds the band taking their normally frantic sound into more ethereal territories. While the band has worked with producer/sonic visionary Dave Fridmann in the past, it would seem that the third time really is a charm for the band. More so than on their other collaborations, the Fridmann/Thursday team-up seems to have really clicked this time around, with the spacy producer making his presence felt on the album. The biggest change for the band is how much more layered this album is compared to their earlier work. Songs like “No Answers” and the album-closer “Stay True” show the band taking a more textural, almost post-rock approach, building the songs in layers and focusing less on drive and raw emotion and more on mood. In a lot of ways, No Devolución is a lot like Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, with the Jersey band exploring more relaxed and atmospheric territories while keeping the core of their songwriting intact to create an album that feels simultaneously stripped down yet somehow grander than anything they’ve done in the past. While this new sound might require a period of adjustment for older fans, No Devolución is an album that could easily make converts out of the skeptical, allowing the band to reintroduce themselves to the world over a decade after their first album was released. ~ Gregory Heaney, Rovi

A City by the Light Divided Play

It's becoming rather apparent that Thursday have just about outgrown the new-school post-hardcore scene that they were partially responsible for helping to birth in the early 2000s. They've always been a step smarter than the hundreds of bands that appeared in Full Collapse's wake, learning over time to rely much less on the scream/sing dynamic of early releases, realizing that subtle time shifts or powerfully layered buildups can trigger just as strong an emotional release as being simply brash and loud. And considering they were teetering on a breakup before this album was yet a notion, fans should feel even luckier at the arrival of their expansive fourth full-length, A City by the Light Divided. The same dismal and dark atmosphere that pervaded War All the Time is back, but this time with a sliver of faint hope appearing amidst the incessant urban sprawl of outward despair. Death, love, desolation, growth, and hope are the touchstones for personal lyrical content, as a literate Geoff Rickly reflects on the band's existence and his own. Religious questions materialize in the divine catharsis of "Sugar in the Sacrament," while a high-school friendship that ended with his friend getting killed by a train emerges as a sustaining theme -- superficially in the driving "Counting 5-4-3-2-1" and more figuratively in the soaring ambience of "Running from the Rain." Songs emerge like sonic landscapes of emotion, with many starting out as quiet, pensive ruminations that ultimately escalate into surging levels of impassioned outcries that Rickly's voice has always been vulnerably perfect for. He continues to move effortlessly from breathy whispers to full-on aching declarations as a steady backdrop curtain of guitars explodes with every gasp. The band sounds as cohesive as ever, and the now permanent addition of keyboardist Andrew Everding feels like he was always a member of the group, smartly adding synth sections that strikingly support the band's rhythm section without overpowering at their mere presence. Thursday simply sound like a superior version of themselves, with traces of their younger identity only appearing sporadically on this album, like on the lovely discordant death-oriented track "At This Velocity." Thursday deserve credit for understanding that a band's maturation is not just synonymous with complete reinvention. From their days of putting on basement shows, they've remained true to themselves while allowing room for necessary stretching and expansion. A City by the Light Divided is not a disc of instant gratification -- but then again, most of the ones worth listening to aren't, either. ~ Corey Apar, Rovi
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