Album Title: Major/Minor
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Review by: Eric Stuckart
I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate thing going on with Thrice. Initially they were one of those bands that I just loved to hate for no particular reason. I think a lot of it was that I was particularly slow to come to love a lot of the more melodic spectrum of the post-hardcore boom, and my metal allegiance was having a bit of a hard time coping with that.
I think most of my misdirected dislike came from the way their label really pushed “All That’s Left,” the lead single from 2003′s The Artist in the Ambulance, but even I was eventually swayed, and to me, Thrice became one of the most interesting bands to rise from the scene. This was amplified tenfold by the time their next album, Vheissu, was released. Hands down, it was one of the most adventurous and beautiful albums that I had heard, and in the six years since its release, I still give it regular spins. On an experimental level, I think the band peaked with this album. It showed the band taking all of their various influences and experiments and creating something that was greater than the sum of its parts. It managed to combine all the elements that the band had going for them, the melodies, the crushing heaviness, and the melancholy that their past songs had hinted at, but it all managed to be an album that set the bar for what they were capable of.
However, like any good band that keeps toying with their sound, Thrice kept plodding away and messing with it, incorporating bigger and bigger concepts and ideas into their music, and call me a music snob all you want, but I just lost interest. Their subsequent releases after Vheissu just felt like a band that was messing with a perfect formula, and I didn’t really want to completely destroy the illusion. However, every time they release something new, I always end up perking my ears a bit, with hopes that they might return to a sound that recalls my favorite era from them.
With that, Major/Minor is both a departure and a triumph for the band. It’s one of those types of albums that show the sheer amount of growth that they’ve made since the early days when they were merely just trying to play mathy time signatures and noodly, more-technical-than-thou guitar riffs. It’s the type of album that really challenges the listener to really sit down and listen to the music, because it’s quite good, but there’s a lot to take in. My first impression of it wasn’t the greatest, but it has shown itself to be the type that has so many layers that it takes quite a few listens before it really sinks in. It also helps to go into Major/Minor knowing that this is the Thrice that Thrice wants to be, not the preconceived one that we might have lingering somewhere in our minds.
The majority of Major/Minor sits somewhere between singer/guitarist Dustin Kensrue’s solo album Please Come Home and grungy, 90s-influenced rock. A lot of the material owes a lot to bands such as Quicksand and Far, with subtle hints of latter-day Foo Fighters, but the music still retains Thrice’s iconic sound. This is especially prevalent in some of the grungier choruses in songs like “Yellow Belly” and “Treading Paper” or the whole of “Promises” and “Cataracts,” which could pass for a pair of songs by former Quicksand frontman Walter Schreifels’ more recent band Rival Schools.
Basically, the thing that Major/Minor seems to be screaming out the most is the intent to be moving out of the post-hardcore scene — something they’ve been distancing themselves from a little bit with each release — and more into the less identifiable waters of experimental alternative rock. And for what it’s worth, it’s a fitting sound for them. The only unfortunate tradeoff for this change in style is that the band kind of had to scale back their heaviness a bit to not make it sound too disjointed, and Kensrue’s vocals sound much more subdued on most of the album’s cuts. These slight alterations, hinted at with their last album, Beggars, kind of cuts off the emotional impact that some of the songs had in the past.
Perhaps it was intentional, but on the mellower songs, it shows a much quieter, contemplative Kensrue, much in line with what they were doing on Beggars, just more refined. What was once a raging fire has turned into slow burn, and Major/Minor shows them further evolving into something even more cathartic and emotionally striking. They’ve found a way to meld all of their past sounds into a smoldering mass of emotion, and that’s its greatest strength.
For more info, thrice.net.
Photos by Jonathan Weiner. Courtesy of Vagrant Records.