Few bands perfect their art the first time out. In fact, many spend their careers trying to get 'it' just right. Sometimes it works; sometimes, it's futile. Other bands deliver their best effort in the form of their first album, yet nothing lives up to the initial blast. In Thursday's case, the quintet was satisfied that they accomplished their musical goals on their first two albums. But rather than rest upon past glory an dremake the same albums, Thursday, in effort to expand beyond its rather prolific past, poured everything into their Island Records debut, "War All the Time." Thanks to the album's challenging music, Thursday has gotten it right, again.
"A lot of what we do is about our youth, and the burn of being a certain age. These are snapshots that can never be taken again," admits wiry frontman Geoff Rickly, whose slight build belies the full breadth of his passionate, intense delivery.
While Thursday's music obviously appeals to younger generations, this is a band of old souls inhabiting young bodies, and thus, the music speaks to many audiences. This New Brunswick, NJ-based band was born of a love of music and basement punk rock shows, the culmination of a pair of high school friends who met their future bandmates at shows. The individual members were raised on left of center hardcore, which couples with Rickly's appreciation for dark pop and 80s' British new-wave acts like The Smiths and The Cure. Thursday's music shimmers with sincerity, but this is a troupe that will spontaneously quote lyrics of their hardcore faves in mid-conversation.
Thursday's career kicked off when indie label Eyeball Records took notice of the band and released their debut, "Waiting," in 1999. The breathtaking "Full Collapse" was released in the spring of 2001 through Chicago's Victory Records, with little fanfare from press and commercial radio, at first. But constant touring of the U.S., alongside acts like Sparta, Boy Sets Fire, and Saves The Day, created incredible word of mouth. Soon, Thursday's stuffed-to-capacity shows became known as communal dialogues between an increasingly confident band and an ever-growing audience. This constant touring, including a plum spot on the main stage of the 2002 edition of the Warped Tour, coupled with specialty radio and MTV2 support for the single "Understanding In A Car Crash" led "Full Collapse" to sell over 230,000 copies domestically.
Amidst this critical and commercial flurry, the band eventually signed to Island Records, and immediately started writing "War All The Time." Thursday hunkered down, and wrote vigorously over the Christmas holidays. The band admits that during the writing process, a Sonic Youth/Godspeed You Black Emporor! style of guitar work evolved in their music. The band chose to keep tradition and to record once again wtih longtime producer Sal Villanueva and mixer Rumble Fish, who manned the boards for "Waiting" and "Full Collapse."
"War All the Time" was not an easy album to make but as with any worthwhile endeavor in life, the more work you put into it, the more it is appreciated. "We took a ton of chances -- we're at the 180 right now. I was sleeping at the studio," Rickly admits. "It was such a long process that at one point I thought 'is this record meant to happen?' Then, we played the songs back, and fell in love with them. While much of our previous work has been personal, this album doesn't look back in the past tense, at what had happened, but at things still going on in the present tense. It's not about closure or after the fact. It's about fighting it out while it's going on. The songs are tangled up in the process of living events now. And this is the first record we made knowing we want to do this for the rest of our lives, as musicians and writers."
Guitarist Steve Pedulla recalls a bit of nervousness about the band's future at the time. "I asked myself, 'Do we have it in us to do something better?' I came to the conclusion that we did. If we didn't, there would be no reason to keep doing music."
Rickly continues, "The heart of what we do is loud, fast cahos, alongside pretty music with different ranges of feeling. For me, I wanted to engage songwriting from a more narrative perspective while still remaining personal. I didn't want to be as obscure, where you could take things a million different ways."
The specific "War All the Time" is not a political statement about bombs dropping from the sky, but of friction in relating to others. "Everything you do is conflict," chimes in Pedulla.
Thursday's music is push and pull, tension and release, and sing-scream harmonies, with the songs functioning as modes of communicaiton, where the band and its listeners exchange thoughts and feelings through the vibrations of the instruments and the lyrics. Regarding the songwriting for "War All the Time," Rickly was focused on "marrying melody more to what I am saying. I wanted to be more visual, chaotic and noisy." With this vision, Rickly's artful lyrics take on more of a folk-writer/storyteller personality and he takes listeners on a vivid journey with him.
On the total loss vs. fulfillment anthem "Between Rupture and Rapture," Rickly recounts a childhood friend's suicide, and concentrates on being lost and confused, "where everything feels temporary, and as a child, I thought love would fill the void and save the day, but as I get older, I doubt that more." The crushingly pretty, "Signals Over the Air" examines human sexuality, and Rickly expounds, saying "In our culture, gender and sexuality identity is hidden or can be used to alienate you, instead of being the natural pure thing that it was meant to be. It's like our version of PJ Harvey's "Mansize."
On "Asleep In the Chapel," which questions faith in anything, the compelling title track, which references the growing pains of life, and the urgent look at dehumanization in "For The Workforce Drowning," (which will also be issued as a seven inch), Rickly places you in the story, right alongside him and you are challenged through Thursday's honest, creative songcraft. While the songs are indeed complex, squalling with harmonic distortion and thick with leaden breakdowns, they are still digestible. They just require and ultimately demand your full thought and attention while listening. This is hardly background music.
Says drummer Tucker Rule, "The new songs are hard for us to play. I love the way it turned out, but I have to get excited to play them live because they are so difficult." Guitarist Tom Keeley finishes, "The melodies won't hit you over the head. There's still the release of anxiety and the subsequent celebration." Thursday intentionally compressed its songs, to which Rickly explains, "We squeezed songs together and made them faster, with just as many parts that do as many different things, but are more explosive."
"War All the Time" is at once dense and redemptive. The metaphors, the stories, the melodies, and the breakdowns are skillfully, beautifully crafted. To win fans over with honest, youth-directed music is easy. To keep them is the challenge.
With "War All the Time," this won't be a problem.
-- By Amy Sciarretto
--- from the official Thursday website