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April 11, 2011 Comments (25) Views: 6452 Music

Flip Your Wig – Thursday: A Retrospective

Welcome to Flip Your Wig, Gay-Nerds’ biweekly column that highlights music by members of the LGBT community and their allies. This week marks the release of Thursday’s sixth full length album, No Devolución. Since the band strives to make the underground music community a constructive place and tackled issues that most bands wouldn’t think of giving a single thought, I decided to do a full retrospective of the band’s work before sharing my thoughts of their latest.

Still Wearing Black on the Outside Because They Feel Everything on the Inside

Thursday humbly came together in 1997, spending the next 3 years slugging through basement shows before being picked up by Eyeball Records for the release of their first album, Waiting. While mixing driving hardcore with heart-on-sleeve writing was nothing new by the turn of the millennium, their nuances and attention to melody set them apart from many of their peers. Even early on, Thursday were willing and excited to tour as bands as far removed from one another as Midtown and Poison the Well, working to build and connect the scenes in the northeast into a deeply interconnected support network, desperate to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.
It’s no surprise that this sense of desperation seeps through Waiting. Many of the songs plea from an escape of a middle class suburban wasteland. Friends come, go, and kill themselves out of despair, and are abused by those whom they love. Though the band largely ignores this release, it’s still a jarring document of young men trying to escape the filth of suburbia.

After some encouragement from Eyeball Records, Thursday moved on to the infamous Victory Records to record their second full length, the seminal Full Collapse. Much like Waiting, there is a running motif of time, loss, and the frantic search for substance in an increasingly impersonal world. The standout opener “Understanding In A Car Crash” sketches a terrifying portrait of self-examination on the moment of impact that one can almost feel the car window shatter onto their arms. Elsewhere, the band deals with the passing of relatives, fear of the unknown repercussions of your actions and a number of mental health issues. Geoff Rickly’s disclosure of his accounts of watching his grandmother die, and memories of his childhood are almost uncomfortable to sit through.

Full Collapse’s release was a watershed moment for the American underground, bringing brains, melody and heart to a massive audience in a way they hadn’t experienced before. The combination of singing and shouting has been aped by countless bands in their wake, as has the (unfortunate and unwanted) pristine production. However, all was not well on the home front. Victory hardly did anything for the band, constricted their profits, and released singles, videos, and took out artwork and thank-yous from the band’s album. The men responded by telling fans to steal their music and find their own meaning in their music. With one release left on their contract, Thursday phoned in the Five Stories and Falling EP before jumping to Island for their most successful album to date, War All The Time.
By now, some news outlets were calling Thursday the next Nirvana” while others were blaming them for being overly emotional “wimps”. Unfettered, War All The Time was released in 2003 to much acclaim and selling more copies than anyone had projected. As expected, it was also horribly misunderstood by those glancing at the back of the case. Many thought that the title track was a commentary on America’s growing presence in the Middle East rather than the universal struggle for one’s identity and connection to a larger meaning. The song “Signals Over The Air” drags several gender and sexuality related concepts out of hiding to be viewed in a larger, unbiased context, while M.Shephard is pretty self explanatory. At every turn, the most abrasive music of their career is married with a desperate undercurrent of post 9/11 culture. Comforting and jarring at the same time, War All The Time served as a counselor and supportive shoulder for many, this writer included, who were trying to make sense of the world they had been thrust into.

Three years and countless imitators later, Thursday decided to fully embrace their influences outside of whatever it is “punk” was and expand their sonic template for their follow up A City By The Light Divided. More obtuse and less immediately receptive than their previous works, listeners found themselves navigating the works of Sonic Youth, Envy, PJ Harvey and Cocteau Twins while being guided through Geoff’s singular voice as guidance. While issues such as faith and death had been covered before, but the writing has improved while focusing more on subtly. The addition of keyboards and samples adds an ethereal quality missing from the bombast assault of their older work. These new angles would meld together on their next album, 2009’s Common Existence, which worked as a “greatest hits” album, mashing everything they have done before into another topical and transcendent document of the human condition.

This brings us to Thursday’s latest release, No . I’ve listened to it a few times now, and I’m not sure if I can describe it as sounding like Thursday. Channeling his feelings over his recent divorce, Geoff’s lyrics follow not only the process of the separation itself, but the loss of devotion, commitment, and all the dimensions that the act of being with someone is and can mean beyond just romance. He addresses his past self in “Stay True” in a retrospective letter to help him through tumultuous times.
What strikes me most about this record is how unique it sounds against the rest of Thursday’s back catalog while being unmistakeably made by Thursday. As I said before, the band had an affinity for music outside of their punk roots, but when you make it through five songs that sound like a sublime marriage of Mogwai and Sunny Day Real Estate by the hands of Blonde Redhead before you even get to a single aggressive shout, it’s confounding to think that the same band with poorly shaped jet black haircuts ten years ago could make something this soulful and subtly haunting.

Thursday were a curiosity to me when I was fifteen and discovering music on my own. As I began to question my sexual orientation, I often looked to bands who embraced their fans or discussed sensitive subjects for support and advice through their music. I’m thankful for Thursday for continuing to challenge themselves and others to better themselves in whatever dimension they need to. Unlike some recently reviewed entities in the Flip Your Wig column, Thursday still have their finger on the pulse of the music scene and continue to push and contort it to make their listeners think and feel about the music, and the lives they are leading. Thank you. I look forward to jamming No Devolución throughout the rest of the year.
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