Anyone who knows me well knows that Thrice is hands down my favorite band. I love music in general, but no other band even comes close for me. I began listening to them around the time The Artist in the Ambulance was released. My older brother often introduced me to whatever he was listening to at the time and I was immediately struck by their lyrics. Particularly those on the title track, The Artist in the Ambulance. Content wise, it was a simple story of a musician who lost control of his car and ended up being rushed to a hospital. The lyrics struck me, moved me and it felt like something I could relate to although I had never personally been involved in a serious car accident at that point in my young life. I was in high school then. I still remember those words: “Late night, brakes lock, hear the tires squeal. Red light, can’t stop so I spin the wheel.” Then, later in the song, the Artist recounts his life: “What have I to show except the promises I never kept?” He thinks on the world and how we need to rise above and be something despite it all:
Look around and you’ll see that at times it feels like no one really cares. It gets me down but I’m still going to try to do what’s right. I know that there’s a difference between sleight of hand and giving everything you have. There’s a line drawn in the sand. I’m working up the will to cross it and I hope that I will never let you down.”
Not to sound cheesy, but I feel that Thrice has accomplished this. They have never let me down. I considered myself a good writer and I knew a lot of words back then, but, like a good book, this album had me looking up words like “rhetoric” and “peregrine.” I know this article is about Major/Minor, but I feel I had to take the reader back to a time when I was discovering Thrice for the first time. When I realized that they weren’t a new band and I just had to find their first two albums on such reputable non-free programs such as not-Kazaa. I dug deep and discovered their “roots.” I had to have more Thrice and I ate it all up like too many guests at a birthday party. I never looked back.
I could write a thousand articles about the intricacies of Thrice (and perhaps I will), but this is about Major/Minor. This is about 2011 Thrice, the new model…and it looks good.
If you’re already familiar with Thrice and you’ve heard their last album Beggars (2009), you will find that this is the smallest departure in terms of sound, they’ve had so far. Many of the groove and blues elements introduced in Beggars are revisited and even expounded upon here. So let’s take a look at the album track-by-track.
Yellow Belly starts the album off with the aforementioned groove element. The drumming of Riley Breckenridge here sets the tone. The familiar growl of Dustin Kensrue’s smoky voice creeps in and infects the song with seething angst. This song seems to be about an abusive father. The lyrics, “you are less than half a man, yellow belly and crimson hands,” show Dustin’s distaste for the deeds of a man like this. This song is a warning to all abusive fathers that while they may not be judged right away, judgment will come swiftly and why should they be shown mercy when they’ve shown none to their own children. This song shows right away that Thrice is not ashamed to call people on their misdeeds and I respect that.
The second song, Promises, is the global problem to which Beggars’ own The Weight is the solution. In The Weight, Dustin makes a promise to stay in a marriage no matter what comes to pass. Promises is a picture of the reality that many of us do not take marriage vows seriously. Divorce rates rise because of selfishness and a lack of understanding of what it is we’re truly promising when we say “’till death do us part.” If you’re at all afraid to have your shortcomings brought to light, you probably shouldn’t listen to Thrice.
Now, Blinded is yet another Biblical reference and you can dispute it all you want, but this song, with its bouncy, swaying beat is told from the perspective of the Biblical Saul, who later became Paul, as in the man who wrote the majority of the new testament. Now, for those unfamiliar with the story, Saul was the anti-Christian, in a sense. He believed himself righteous, persecuting the followers of Jesus for the Roman Empire. He thought his way was right and he was doing God’s work in torturing and killing these Christ followers. Then one day, he was walking along and God blinded him with a bright light. In his blindness, he began to see things as they truly are…
Which brings me to Cataracts. Now, I could be wrong about this, but it seems this song is tied to the one before it. It seems to be Saul’s reaction as he begins to regain his vision after the blindness. He’s upset and angry, but he’s growing. He’s seeing things for the first time almost. It could also be simply the reaction that any Christian has to growth. “Pin me down, and take away this heart of stone.” Then later, “I’ll fight or run to keep from going under the knife; don’t let me slip away. ‘Cause though the blade is sharp, I know you’re saving my life; don’t let me slip away.” This is Dustin saying, hey God, just so you know, when you’re trying to soften my heart, I’m going to fight it, but I know it’s best for me. This song also has some of the coolest drum work by Riley Breckenridge.
Call it in the Air talks about a coin toss. We all know of this. Football games, Heads or Tails, it’s a 50/50 chance, True/False. The guitar really builds the tension in this song and gives us a sense, along with its lyrics, that this coin toss is not just which team gets the ball first. This is about the most important decision you’ll ever make. Do I have some idea about what that is? Yes. Do I want to get even more preachy than I already have? Not really. But it is a cool song that again uses something simple like a coin toss to convey a broader meaning that’s so much more than meets the eye (Transformers!)
Song six, Treading Paper, sounds almost like a blues song from the get go. As it goes on, the vibes gets groovy and makes me want to dance. But you’re probably too cool to dance, aren’t you reader? This song hearkens back to the theme of their song Image of the Invisible on the album Vheissu, a personal favorite of mine. The idea that life is not just a random sequence of events and that we are, as Image… says, “More than carbon and chemicals.” Here’s a good chunk of lyrics to chew on for a bit:
If anything means anything,
there must be something meant for us to be, a song that we were made to sing.
There must be so much more than we can see.
But all our lives, we’ve been treading paper in the space between the words.
And there implied’s the thought that we are barely more than bodies for the birds, carrion.”
But here is the response to that, at the end of the song:
But our hearts tell a different story; our hands feel a different pulse.
Something fathomless, deeper than our pride can dive; numinous, higher than –
our hearts can rise; transcendent, further than our thoughts can reach; immanent, closer than the air we breathe.”
Blur is a fast-paced, punk beat song that reminds me of their older stuff, as in Identity Crisis or The Illusion of Safety, but it also has elements of Vheissu and the aggression shown on The Alchemy Index Volume I: Fire. It’s chaotic, then controlled and then it’s over. Good name for a song like this.
Words in the Water: This song is stirring and driven by Dustin Kensrue’s smooth, sincere vocals. It’s an interesting story with great imagery. This song, to me, is about reconciling the old testament law given to the Israelites with the new testament Savior who comes to save us from a life of just trying to satisfy our thirst with the honey coated law. The man in the story is drowning trying to save himself by just following the law. All it does it placate him as he begins to drown. Then someone came and carried him out of the water, just like in the Artist in the Ambulance.
Sorry guys, there’s no disguising the meaning behind Listen Through Me. This song is the gospel; the good news. This song is about Jesus Christ, plain and simple. But the way its presented is interesting; it’s almost like a challenge. The song is about following Jesus. The opening lyrics are: “See my ragged shoes? The soles have worn straight through, while I’ve proclaimed the king who sang the blues. If you’ve got better news then make it plain.” I love this line as it’s basically saying, this is what I believe and I’m not ashamed. I’ve been following this Savior for a long time and I’m tired, but I don’t care. I’m going wherever he’s going. I like the further challenge to make a decision, yes the same decision in Call it in the Air. It’s black or white here. Either Jesus was who he said he was or he was a fool. “This story’s an offense, so get down from that fence and bless or curse.” He’s not saying you have to believe. But he is saying you have a choice to make, Heads or Tails, don’t straddle the fence and hope for a grey area to arise. Amazing song for me as both a Thrice fan and a Christian.
Do songs have sequels? They must, because this song is clearly the sequel to The Weight from the album Beggars. The Weight seems to be a promise made at the beginning of a marriage, as in the wedding vows. (Side note: I read the song in its entirety during my own wedding vows, because I agree whole-heartily with the notions in it.) Anthology is the day-to-day life within this marriage. Here Dustin compares the man and wife to a child’s toy version of a phone, built very simply and not very reliable. However, God is the foundation and anchor of it, so it stays strong. The Weight is a man’s promise to love his wife and Anthology is the same man’s pact with his wife to love God first and their love will grow stronger and survive as a direct result. This song even borrow phrases verbatim from The Weight to show that this idea of enduring love in a marriage is a constant thing, not “a burning for a moment.”
Ok, this is getting too easy now. 1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV) ”Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” As the great poet John Donne wrote, “Death be not proud.” The final song, entitled Disarmed is the direct result of the story in Listen Through Me: Jesus conquered death when he resurrected three days after dying on a cross. Death doesn’t have any power anymore, as evidenced by Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. If you get down from the fence in Listen Through Me and choose to bless, rather than curse, then you need not fear death because you will know that something better than this life awaits.
(Okay, I’m going to step off my soapbox now.) If I were to have a rating system in place (I don’t), I would give Thrice three crosses or seven of something (the perfect number). I will say that while Thrice has never shied away from speaking freely about their beliefs. See Ultra Blue, In Exile, Image of the Invisible, Come All You Weary, The Weight of Glory, and so on, the more I listened closely to the lyrics as I tried to formulate what I wanted to say about this album, the more I realized how much it is a completely unabashed account of their faith. I can picture Dustin Kensrue sitting down with his young daughter and reading the lyrics, in order as a way to kind of spell out, “This is what daddy believes, do with it what you will.” Thrice is never bashing you over the head with their Biblically founded lyrics, but they come pretty close on this album. But what’s great is you can’t deny their musical ability and maturation over each and every album. Even if you’re not a Christian and you don’t have the background I do to notice the stories being told, you can appreciate their music.