Times change, trends end and-especially in the realm of popular culture-fame usually doesn’t last much longer than its five-minute expiration date. Luckily, Thursday aren’t that kind of band. Even though the summer of screamo may be far from a footnote in the annals of music history, instead of making a last ditch effort to capitalize on the trend they helped bring to the mainstream, with A City By The Light Divided, the men of Thursday have once again transcended the genre, creating something vital and urgent!
But in order to truly understand the band’s new material, it needs to be put into context. Formed in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1997, Thursday started out as part of a basement culture that also birthed bands like Midtown and Taking Back Sunday. After releasing their debut album Waiting on then emerging Eyeball Records in 1999, the band members dropped out of Rutgers to pursue their musical careers full-time, touring non-stop for the next few years and slowly building up a fanatic fanbase. The band’s big breakthrough came when the video for the song “Understanding In A Car Crash” (off 2001’s Full Collapse), got picked up by MTV and after a headline stint on 2002’s Warped Tour, the band found a new home at Island Records, who released the band’s critically acclaimed third disc, War All The Time in 2003. However, despite numerous magazine covers and shows with The Cure that came in that album’s wake, the band seemed to disappear for the second half of 2005, fueling rumors of an imminent break-up. Instead, the band had to tear itself apart and reevaluate everything in order to truly survive.
“One thing we realized on this record which was really liberating was that this is still our band,” says vocalist Geoff Rickly. “It may have gotten bigger than us, but we still own it and we can decide what we want to do with it.” However, for a while it looked like this record would never exist. Although the New Brunswick, New Jersey band’s major-label debut, 2003’s War All The Time, received numerous accolades and sold over 400,000 copies worldwide, the hectic touring schedule that followed it left the band physically, emotionally and creatively drained.
In fact, in many ways, A City By The Light Divided is the album that saved Thursday. “We took four months off last year to decide what we wanted to do and how much of a commitment we wanted to make, and we all decided we wanted to do this full-time,” Rickly explains. “But in order to do that, we had to make a record that we think is fucking startling and amazing and beautiful and brilliant. If we don’t make something that destroys everything else we’ve ever done, we just can’t make another record.”
A City By The Light Divided is undoubtedly that album. Produced by Dave Fridmann at Tarbox Studios in Fredonia, New York., “At This Velocity” may be equal parts singing and screaming, but it’s anything but screamo. It’s aggressive, sure, but with its lilting half-time breakdown and shimmering keyboards, it’s also progressive-and accurately sets the tone for what follows it. In fact, if it weren’t for Rickly’s distinctive vocals, cynics would be hard-pressed to recognize the driving and impassioned “Telegraph Avenue Kiss” as a Thursday song (and not just because it features the most tasteful use of glockenspiel in recent memory).
However, it’s that kind of gradual growth which has defined the band from their humble beginnings as a hardcore band to the innovative rock act they’ve become today. And while Fridmann may seem like an unlikely choice for a band who still incorporate breakdowns and sing-alongs into their music, Thursday’s penchant for taking seemingly unorthodox chances is one of the reasons the band’s popularity hasn’t waned in the oast three years, while so many of the band’s more predictable peers have vanished into obscurity.
“Yeah, a lot of people were surprised we recorded with Dave instead of a ‘heavy’ producer,” Rickly admits. But listening to the disc, it’s obvious the man who layered sonic textures with groundbreaking acts like the Flaming Lips and Sleater-Kinney was the perfect person to combine Thursday’s eclectic influences-which range from instrumental acts like Explosions In The Sky to technical metal groups like the Dillinger Escape Plan to writers like Octavio Paz and Jonathan Lethem. The complete realization of all these seemingly disparate influences is what makes Rickly describe the band’s latest disc as “the album we tried to make with War All The Time.”
Let’s face it, “next big things” are generally overrated. The term itself implies impermanence; no one uses that phrase to refer to, say, a band like U2. And while Thursday are still relatively in the infant stage of their existence, that’s the kind of career trajectory they’re aiming for- A City By The Light Divided is just the vehicle bringing them on step closer to realizing that dream.
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