A Letter to Thrice, Part Two
June 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In which I conclude my letter to Thrice.
After Vheissu you decided to raise the bar and pursue your most ambitious project to date—The Alchemy Index. I remember being so excited that you were applying your musical acumen to a concept album revolving around the four elements, matching the sonic qualities of each disc (Fire, Water, Air, Earth) to the qualities of the elements. And while they didn’t end being my favorite thing you have ever done, the songs on each six-song disc sounded remarkably what I imagined each element might sound like as music. Fire was heavy, bludgeoning at times, yet carried a delicate beauty; Water was bathed in electronic blips and synths while buoyed by ethereal vocals and melodies; Air was light and peaceful, yet occasionally hit with the force of a tornado; and Earth was acoustic, steeped in folk, delivering an earthy, homey set of songs. Oh, and ending each disc with a sonnet from the perspective of the element was a brilliant touch.
My favorite songs from The Alchemy Index are scattered across the discs, with Air probably being my favorite of the four. From Fire, “The Arsonist” and its serpentine guitar riff is my favorite with “Burn the Fleet” being a close second. Water’s high points are opener “Digital Sea” and the gorgeous, melancholy “The Whaler.” For my money, Air is the most consistent, each song worthy of mention, but none more so than the soaring “Silver Wings,” one of the most beautiful songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. The highlight of Earth is “Come All You Weary,” especially as the full band kicks in near the end of the song. Yet, the true fun of The Alchemy Index is combining the songs in different ways, and listening to them in a different order, experimenting with placing the disparate elements next to each other to attempt a kind of synthesis.
Luckily for us, you created the very synthesis I am describing with your next two, and unfortunately last, albums—Beggars and Major/Minor. Beggars is rough and tumble rock and roll, incorporating qualities of The Alchemy Index into a more streamlined, gritty soundscape. It’s easy to hear the southern rock and blues influence on songs like “The Weight” and “Doublespeak,” yet it never overtakes your unique approach to music. Beggars had just dropped when I got the chance to see you live for the first time in Pittsburgh during my junior year of college: an incredible experience, even if the venue was jam-packed and uncomfortable at times. The subtle play between the harder elements of your past music and the newer, more melodic nature of some of the newer material on Beggars offers up some of its most intriguing moments. The title track is a slow-burner which eventually turns into a grungy mess of a song, highlighting the central message of the song and the album: “We are beggars all.” To hear such a resonant statement in the midst of the shiny, superficial music that often populates people’s iPods was, and still is, a breath of fresh air.
However, the songs on Beggars had a tendency to bleed together, lacking the sonic diversity that marked an album like Vheissu. Major/Minor solved this problem, and in many ways seems like a culmination of your music. There are heavy moments juxtaposed with soft, fast with slow, angry with peaceful: such is what I expect from a Thrice record. It’s smooth, almost effortless; clearly, you know how to make an album. I stayed up until 11 (CST, baby!) and downloaded the album as soon as it was available—the only other band I’ve done that for is U2. I don’t have much more to say about Major/Minor other than remarking about the palpable sense of finality that seems to pervade it. Especially now, looking back on it knowing this was your final album, there are moments that act as a closure to some of the themes, musically and lyrically that you have been exploring for your entire career. Indeed, you concluded the May 27th show with “Anthology,” a farewell song if there ever was one, including a multitude of references to previous songs from your discography. The chorus, directed at your fans at the show, says it all: “Oh, you know me and I know you. And I know we can see this through.”
So, at the end, it comes down to this. You are the first of my favorite bands to break up. Sure there were other bands I enjoyed who have parted ways over the course of the past ten years, but they did not have the same impact on my life as you did. For all you’ve meant to me, all I can offer is this—thank you.
Your devoted fan,