Thursday’s debut came out when I was 13. At the time, hardcore music was epitomized by the Smashing Pumpkins, as suffice to say I was not a ‘hardcore’ kid. I gobbled down Blind Melon and Pearl Jam, hiding a budding sensitivity behind a thin veil of pubescent machismo.
So when Thursday emerged and what was seen as real post-hardcore fastened its talons on me in high school, everything changed. Or at least it seemed so. Thursday was louder, faster and heavier than my norm, but emotional enough to connect with simultaneously. At that moment, as stupid as time shows it to be, it felt revelatory.
Come Full Collapse, their breakthrough sophomore release, Thursday was a favourite. They frequented CD players passed around humdrum classrooms, lunch hours and recesses. I remember smoking my first (and last) cigarette while listening to the record. But times changed. What was once post-hardcore got poisoned by emo, as metal lost to pop.
Thursday signed to a major and grew increasingly popular, filling theatres consistently across Canada (where I grew up) and as such, became more of a guilty pleasure in the process. But that pleasure faded. Slayer, Mastodon and other heavier acts replaced Thursday. The associations with My Chemical Romance and others were too much.
Now older and wiser, Thursday are back with Common Existence, their first for Epitaph after leaving a mutually damaging relationship with Island, and second with Dave Fridmann (Mogwai, Flaming Lips). At first listen, the album is among the better of their five in total, as it has discernable, almost sing-along melodies while remaining caked in dirty, bloody and forceful post-hardcore sensibilities.
The opening pair of tracks begin it with a flourish. Both focus on the band’s metal past, as Resuscitation of a Dead Man – written about the war in Iraq – and Last Call spew self-loathing while dark, aggressive tones jaggedly fight for space with vocalist Geoff Rickly’s sprawling screams. These are the hardest two tracks Thursday have recorded in years, and their assertiveness lasts. These songs are unforgettable.
Friends In The Armed Forces continues the trend further, beginning with an acoustic strum that builds into power metal exploring the courage and restraint that comes from signing up to fight. Screeched distortion and caustic screaming only elevate the matter, producing a track worthy of the attention Full Collapse received nearly a decade ago.
But it’s not all perfect. Both Time’s Arrow and Love Has Led Us Astray showcase the more radio friendly aspects the New Jersey quintet adopted over the years, to varying degrees of success. The former yelps for more aggression, ending as a lame duck that fails to ignite, while the latter plays with too much vocal production, ending up too close to My Chemical Romance for comfort.
But all in all, Common Existence is Thursday’s strongest album in half a decade. It shows its fangs, but leaves just enough for the imagination to ply both sides effectively. It may not receive the attention its predecessors did, from me at least, but it’s an impressive return to form; that in and of itself is worthwhile.