By: Matthew Williamson
In 1998, in Irvine, California, a rock band was formed that would go on to have four top 25 albums in the US. Two of which topped the US Indie charts. This band is Thrice, made up of Riley (drums, percussion) and Eddie (bass, backing vocals) Breckenridge, Teppei Teranishi (guitar, keyboards, backing vox) and, of course, frontman Dustin Kensrue (lead vox, guitar). In August 2009 they digitally released their new album Beggars, (which was followed by a physical release a month later).
The album starts with “All the World Is Mad.” Comprised of an awfully simple bass riff, combined with some chords thrown in over the top, it works perfectly, but that’s not a surprise; Thrice do the simple things well. As the chorus kicks in, so do the lyrics “Something’s gone, terribly wrong.” Unlike what is normal in our world of hardcore, screamo, metal and emo it has become the norm to have the words distorted into an array of different techniques. Although Thrice employ these when the vocals come to the fore, they’re clear and catchy.
“The Weight” is up next. It starts off with a tinier tone, but as the bass is turned up it has echoes of more classic rock. However, they manage to keep it interesting and the chorus is again where the band captivates the listener. The lead guitar riffs are loud, but restrained, maybe taking a little away from frontman Kensrue’s vocals, but, in reality, the song doesn’t suffer.
With a calmer manner the plucked beginning of “Circles” is tranquil. Again, because of this, the lyrics and melodies are thrust into the spotlight. The harmonies are beautiful, perfectly placed to embellish only certain sections. The section of instrumental isn’t something you usually get in Thrice’s area of music anymore. It is not overstated and is simply gorgeous. It may not be one for those that prefer Breathe Carolina to Brand New, but for the right kind of person then it may be perfect.
In “Doublespeak” a piano takes over from their weapon of choice, the guitar. That is until 1:01. The simple guitar licks, mimicked in the bass, are genius. As Albert Einstein himself once said “Everything should be made as simple as possible.” I’m not sure if he meant it in this particular context, but it certainly fits. Like almost all of the songs on this album, it is a well constructed five minute narrative. It is not constantly screaming in your face. It is not something that burns out in the first thirty seconds; it’s just Thrice at their best.
Five tracks in and up steps “In Exile.” Again, a simple guitar riff is the starting point, however it soon builds up. Add in a second riff to counter the first and things are rolling. Of course one thing is missing, the rhythm to keep it all moving, and that’s exactly what is added next. It is foot tapping brilliance, even before Kensrue’s vocals are further thrown into the mix. There are numerous theories about the song’s meaning, but I think that the lyrics are worked perfectly. They can be worked for anybody. Just after the 3 minute mark the drum beat changes and everything seems to be moving quicker, before it all comes back down. “Ooh’s” are almost being screamed, and it is so easy to imagine being in the recording studio as it was being taped.
“At The Last” seems to start quicker than any of the other songs. Not contented with small motifs it goes straight in with a fast paced chord sequence; until everything quietens. The bass keeps the pace, and then everything comes back in. It doesn’t have the quality of “Circles” but the reassurances of Kensrue that he is “a good man” keep you hooked, especially as it leads into the bridge. The lyrics are morbid, but fascinating, and you’ll find your lips moving along with every word. “The rewards of this life now count for naught. My body soon buried and left to rot. Good times gone how quickly it all has past. My God now I see how I’ve squandered each and every breath.” The passion of the last chorus lifts it above the rest of the song. It may be one of the weaker ones but it is still an absolute cracker.
“Wood and Wire” is back to the piano, however it is not as good as fellow soft song “Circles”. It is slightly too repetitive for me. The lack of any real guitar riff makes the song concentrate far too much on the piano’s chords, which don’t provide the same hook as the guitar. Although the song technically is fine it doesn’t have the hook of “In Exile.” It may have a few changes in textures and chords the song, overall, is too similar for the entire four minutes, which is just too long.
“Talking Through Glass/We Move Like Swing Sets” immediately provides more hope. The drum beat makes the listener’s head bob, especially when mixed with the passionate vocals and guitar. As the chorus comes around the listener hears the now familiar sound; the lengthened note values give Kensrue a chance to sing out, “And I can’t carry on living like this, talking through glass”. As the song slows to a stunning acoustic instrumental, it is a flawless end to the song.
The penultimate track, “The Great Exchange,” is interesting from the start. The build up of instruments, starting from the underrated high-hat and guitar soon adds the rest of the drum kit, and bass too. It doesn’t have the same passion as other songs, but is really just more of a filler track. Although solid, it doesn’t have any real grabbing feature, and at 3:33 is the shortest track. Which means that it is just a short pit-stop on the way to the title, and final, track.
“Beggars” starts of like many before it. Slowly and with just a few chords, and drums to back them up. As the second verse begins, the bass begins. It is almost as if Thrice are trying to say that we have no real control on our life, after all “Does the earth seek your council on how fast to spin? Can you shut up the gates of the deep?” Again, for verse 3 there is another step up. A distorted guitar throws itself into it, and you can hear Kensrue’s vocals straining to break free. With one repeat of the chorus the guitars unleash themselves. Ever building, ever perfect. If you have not been listening to the album on full volume then this would be the time to crank it up. It is one thing to listen to it, but a completely different to listen to it with the volume at 100. You can hear all of the detail of the guitar parts as it switches between registers. Every time the pick hits the string whilst tremolo picking. It really is something else.
Thrice have made a truly great album in Beggars. Despite a bump with “Wood and Wire” the rest of the album is truly inspirational. They manage to keep a common theme and atmosphere running all the way through. That theme may admittedly be quite depressing, and not exactly something you want to put on whilst the sun is shining and the sky is blue, but it’s definitely one that helps the album flourish.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Release Date: Digitally – August 9, 2009 Physically – September 13, 2009
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Recommended Tracks: All The World Is Mad, Doublespeak, Talking Through Glass/We Move Like Swing Sets, Beggars.
For Fans Of: Brand New, Rx Bandits
For More Information On Thrice Please Visit:
Tweet to them @OfficialThrice