Monday, January 26, 2009

The Impact Of A Full Collapse

They will never be a cool band, no matter what they do, they will never be seen as innovative artists and favorites.

A few years ago, there was not a band any more scorching in a sentimental way like Thursday, i say “a few years” but it might as well be a lifetime past, in another time and another place it almost seems; sure there were bands that were a lot more scorching with anger and regret (Saetia, Usurp Synapse) and more emotionally sad and desperate (Xiu Xiu for starters), but Thursday was something that was bigger, bolder and more earnest, something that made them both real and at the same time like the ol’ rock bands of yore, full of a mysticism and detachment. They were like few others.

Of course, that was a long time ago.

Thursday will always be the band that tries too hard, the band that are way too brash in their sentimentalism, too poetic in their lyrical approach and just over the top enough not to be considered cool; sometime in 2004 the band became immersed in a lot of pressure for being in a major label, and many of their members mentioned the possibility of breaking up. Then they released City By The Light Divided, an unabashed poppy rock album that chased for a hit single and easy listening, betraying their best assets, making them seem like a dumb band at long last. Not that many people didn’t consider Thursday dumb before, casting them as crybabies who just whinned and whinned through their music that wasn’t savvy enough to be considered truly punk and not arty and pretentious enough to be considered truly indie, people in both sides of the critical frame considered the band another emo bunch who got dumped by their girlfriends and decided to bitch all the way to the bank and Myspace. For the most part, it’s their loss, since their early output is worth at the very least an occasional listen.

If there was a band that underlined the word “post” in their sound, it’s definitely them; the guitar lines and fractured rhythms did reference hardcore but broke through it for grander pastures while they also retained another post, this one with the suffix “punk”, by namechecking “Ian Curtis” in a song and voicechecking Robert Smith in some of the more anguished tones by throater Geoff Rickly, with lyrics full of existentialist quotes and insufferable feelings; hardly anybody mentioned Thursday along with then emo stalwarts Dashboard Confessional or Saves The Day, since their music was more dissonant, more universal and mature.

One of the band’s best talents, it turned out, was the ability to craft well-thought out albums, to the point of almost seeming like concept albums; Full Collapse featured many songs that were not only labyrinth-esque in their arrangments, but also hard hitting and going for the heart. “Understanding In A Car Crash” has poetically charged lyrics, but also parts that make it both a fist pumping hardcore number and a sad narrative to be sung by yourself, at different moments in the same song; “I Am The Killer” screams for most of the song, and confesses that it still hides it’s face in the coming days. But it’s “Paris In Flames” that defines the band and it’s moment in time and space, about intolerance for a big chunk of the song but having a chorus that’s memorable for pointing that “we all sing these songs of separation...”, refering to fellow emotional hardcore and not so hardcore bands that treasured sincerity in their feelings (or faking that) as badges of honor and artistic proclamations; the band looked beyond it’s short comings, while still homaging At The Drive-In in a big way, and created some challenging yet very well written songs about more complex emotions than lost love and nostalgia.

One undeniable thing about them, though, is that they are of their time, reflecting their surroundings in a way that might seem a bit misplaced if heard today as new music by unexperienced ears; and it’s more evidently on their 2003 record, War All The Time, which reflects the time like few albums without addressing world events directly. While it’s easy to write it off a record that uses the backdrop of 9/11 and the wars in the middle east as more universal emotional fodder, that's hardly the case, as most songs don’t really talk about those events, only the opening lines, “Falling from the top floor, your lungs filled like parachutes, windows come rushing by. People inside are dressed for the funeral in black and white...” and the title track point to the sentiments of the people in the U.S., where pride is either needed to save yourself from drowning or enough to be put to sleep, listening to the lullaby. Elsewhere, Rickly uses the metaphor of being “Asleep In The Chapel” for fundamentalist religious thoughts of revenge, taken by both sides of combatants in the “war on terror”, leaving spirituality out of religion to use it as an excuse, and "Signals Over The Air" talks about attraction and seduction; musically, the band leaves their fondness for ATDI a bit to let themselves flourish in their own style, making each song different from one another yet stringing them together so they can complement each other.

Perhaps the problem with Thursday is that they are such an early ’00s band that it’s hard for them to get out of that time period; because now it’s 2009 and they are about to release Common Existance, which seems very confused to me, like they can’t fit anywhere because they don’t know who they want to be. Are they trying to sound like At The Drive In again? Do they want to do an AFI type song? Do they think they need to approach a sort of My Chemical Romance sound? Do they have to chase their audience? It seems like something really insecure from their part, trying on different things so the kids today can like them, instead of doing their own thing, documenting the way they try to relate to an ever collapsing world, but mostly what they achieve is demonstrating how low do you have to be to appreciate the real impact of a full collapse.