Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thrice Is Unbridled On Major/Minor

Major/Minor delivers a rediscovered intensity for Thrice, with guitarist/vocalist Dustin Kensrue having more power and presence than on recent albums. Any thought that Kensrue was softening as a singer is gone. On this album, Thrice keeps its refinement and rekindles much of its post-hardcore roots.

Taking only a week off after concluding their Beggars tour certainly influenced the band. There have been several occasions when members said they felt pickier in the studio, thinking ahead to what the album would sound like on their next tour. It also helps that most of this album was recorded live, playing together, much like they did for Vheissu. 

It all works because Thrice worked Major/Minor in every way possible.

Even after recording at Red Bull Studios with Dave Schiffman in May, the band went back guitarist Teppei Teranishi's home studio, a.k.a. New Grass Studios, to add overdubs, tweaks, and "ear candy." But that doesn't mean they just dropped in anything. Major/Minor is an exercise not in experimental as much as meticulousness after 13 years together.

The band would try dozens of odd sounds, percussions, and other elements. And then they would take them out. And then add them back in, or not. The process gives the album a handcrafted sound. 

"It's definitely got the most parts, melodies, and different things here and there that I get stuck in my head a lot," said drummer Riley Breckenridge. "More so than prior records, not that I listen to a lot of our stuff."

Promises starts out as a solid track, with a dynamic vocal chorus. But where it kills is in the build throughout the song, adding intensity and urgency as it progresses. Everybody — Kensrue, Teranishi, and  both Breckenridges, Riley and bassist Ed — are at the top of their art. 

Yellow Belly is my favorite song, with its hard and thrashing undercurrent in the rhythm with each guitar adding independent voices, layer upon layer. Kensrue barks over it all, sounding gruffer but polished. And that's just the beginning of the 11-track album and one acoustic bonus. 

If you liked the softer side of Thrice, don't fret. There are some smoother tracks that carry over well, including the six-and-a-half minute Words In The Water, an airy almost ethereal track that touches on faith. Anthology is also melodic, but keeps some heavy elements that help the sound remain grounded. Disarmed carries a moody sadness to it, which fits because you won't want the album to end. 

Major/Minor By Thrice Pounds New Ground At 9.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Overall, Major/Minor starts out as an album that is much more in your face. But then there seems to be a progression that makes it feel like a culmination of the band's career. The lyrics are some of the best Kensrue has ever written (almost always written after the music) and the way the band built every song from the ground up is inspired.

Major/Minor is a triumph for Thrice and is available on iTunes. You can also pick up the CD at Barnes & Noble while the limited vinyl edition can be found on Amazon. If you are still unconvinced, Thrice put up a free download of Yellow Belly on China Shop along with their fall tour dates. Their first stop is Vegas on Sept. 30. The people at Vagrant Records have got to be happy. 
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