Thrice - Major/Minor
Record Label: Vagrant
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Where as most bands have that “one” album that define a career, Thrice continuously re-enforce their ever building legacy with one champion after the next without sticking to a tried and tested formula and without succumbing to pressure to write a ‘hit’. Message board discussions about Thrice always bring up the “what is their best album” debate and what is striking time and time again is that every list has all eight of their albums in completely different orders; proof of an exceptional catalogue. Thrice have spanned more genres, concepts and themes than most bands have managed over the last ten years put together. One would think this would exert enormous amounts of pressure on them every time they release a new album – but the anticipation of a Thrice album is rarely a question of how good it will be. The trust displayed by their fans has for the most part always been exemplary, creating a passionate following, living and breathing each album as it comes. Few bands enjoy such a relationship and as the fans know Thrice just cannot create a dud, the questions always revolve on what the albums will sound like.
"Yellow Belly" kicks off Major/Minor with a grimy, dirty riff laid on tight and steady beats. It is very appropriate for the riff to take centre stage from the outset as this album is far more guitar driven than previous material. Dustin Kensrue howls and rages with passion and you know you’re in for a treat. There has been talk of this album being darker than previous works due to the band going through difficult times of late but "Yellow Belly" is by far the darkest and amongst the most aggressive, musically and lyrically. Promises and Blinded are straight up rock jams. The former tipping the hat to their song "The Weight" on Beggars, dealing with the topic of marriage and the nonchalance that the general society has taken towards it, and the latter a grungy rock song that shows similarities to metaphors shown on The Artist In The Ambulance’s "Stare at the Sun".
“But you buried me in the bright light. Yeah you held my eyes to the sun ‘till I could see”
"Cataracts" is a quirky jam with a bouncy bass line and finicky guitar play laid on odd time signatures before exploding into the chorus. The body of the song as it develops is simply so massive; a triumphant track. "Call It In The Air" is the first ‘catch your breath’ moment on the album. A calm and smooth song underpinned by a slightly sinister undertone.
“Your life is a coin in the air, it will come down somewhere”
It has been well documented that Thrice have gone through a lot of hardship recently with illness and death in their families and you can’t help but notice the lyrics leaning towards the themes of life, death and knowing where one stands in their beliefs before your coin drops.
“So heads or tails? There's nothing for it, so put an end to your sidestepping.
Is it heads or tails? You can't ignore it; you stand to win or lose everything”
"Treading Paper", similar to "Cataracts", is full of groove in the verses building to a chorus that is not only really catchy, but so full of passion. Dustin Kensrue has the ability to make you really believe that he lives what he sings and sings what he lives.
“If anything means anything,
There must be something meant for us to be, a song that we were made to sing.
There must be so much more than we can see”
"Blur" begins at breakneck speed and is a relentless juggernaut, quickly reminding you that their roots did once lie in heavier surroundings. What makes this song special is that it is a song of two halves. The second verse of the song lives in stark contrast to the overall pace and volume of the song yet it fits there so perfectly – in complete juxtaposition, like something that could easily have slid unto the quieter portions of Vheissu. Yet there it is, and then the band flips the switch again and goes into overdrive.
"Words In The Water" and "Listen Through Me" are two completely different songs musically, but they both show that Dustin has brought his ideas of faith further into the forefront. Whilst every album had biblical references and themes that reflected on his beliefs they were rarely obvious bar a handful of tracks. It is a lot more apparent on Major/Minor. In the liner notes for "Listen Through Me" on the vinyl Dustin writes the following:
“…most people who have followed the band have come to understand that I am a follower of Jesus. It’s the single most important thing about me, so it comes out in various ways in my writing, but it’s something that I’ve tried to handle carefully and tactfully in the understanding that many don’t share the same views, including fellow bandmates. This song is one where you can easily see the references to Christ…”
It’s just another impressive feature about the band. Writing about potentially polarizing, alienating topics, without actually doing so is no mean feat. The balance and care Dustin alludes to is still there on Major/Minor even if it is a little more obvious and it would be a damn shame if you chose to not listen to the album because of it. You’d be missing out on not only some of the best music Thrice have created but also on some incredible lyrics, biblical or not, it is sheer poetry and in this day and age, such a brave and welcome change.
"Words In The Water" is a dream of a song. It swoops and swirls through your ears. A constant drum roll, a minimal guitar and bass melody and Dustin singing all mesh into a blissful encounter. This song is a gem and shows just how far this band has come. It is sometimes hard to fathom that this is the same bunch of guys that wrote "Deadbolt". The differences are worlds apart but you can still say that both are distinctively ‘Thrice’. The foundations of "Listen Through Me" are laid on a medium paced heavy rock drone before the verses strip it back to drums and keyboard whilst Dustin sings his heart out about the “king who sang the blues”.
"Anthology" is truly special; an all-encompassing Thrice experience. Musically and lyrically you can say that it spans their entire career. It is beautifully melodic yet somehow heavy at the same time; straight forward but the odd time signature snuck in almost unnoticed and the lyrics pay homage to several songs throughout their career. It is such a feel good song that will have you smiling from ear to ear and the nostalgic vibes that emanate from the track will truly be touching for long-time fans. I shy away from my next thought but "Anthology"was the first time that I could see any kind of curtain closing on the band. It’s what I would imagine having your life flash in front of your eyes in musical form would be like. Perhaps this would have been more a thorn in my side had it actually been the last track on the album but we are treated to "Disarmed"; the final track. "Disarmed" is moody and relaxed. You are smoothly transported into a final offering, a song that feels like a lamentation before an outro that explodes into a melodious riot that incite the feeling of hope in your mind; the beautiful guitar work reminiscent of Vheissu’s "Red Sky" – a perfect ending.
Thrice have not reached another pinnacle or new height for they have been at the top for some time and from up top they can look down and see the difference they have made not only to the scene but to each individual fan of theirs. May it be through their constantly evolving dynamics in sound or through lyrics that brave and test the most cynical of minds, Thrice continue to forge their own path and invite their fan base along for the ride. They may have shed their recent penchant for the experimental but they have delivered a masterful rock album. It’s a take it or leave it, and for arguably the most consistent band in the scene over the last decade, Major/Minor is a triumph. What else and to whom do they need to prove anything anymore anyway?
This is a 10/10 in my opinion, but solid review! I think it is about as perfect as an album can get! Anthology is perhaps one of the (if not the) greatest Thrice songs ever written. It truly uplifts any mood !
Great review, really great. Don't usually read reviews on here, or very much in general really, but since I haven't actually heard the album, I couldn't be more excited to get out and purchase it this weekend. They're not my favourite band, but obviously they're pretty damn close to it, Dustin will always be my favourite vocalist though I think, he can actually do anything and make it sound perfect. Anywho, great review, my anticipation is incredibly high.