A decade after the major label grinder killed guitar-tastic, emotionally charged acts like Jawbreaker, Jawbox and many more, Thursday seemed like the next on the chopping block after announcing its split from Island Records earlier this year. Hell, it's exactly what happened to Jawbox: put out two great, indie-backed post-hardcore albums, put out two great, major label-backed post-hardcore albums, break up. Yet, where such bands died sad deaths, Thursday carried on, putting out a stop-gap live/B-side/rarities CD/DVD combo, Kill the House Lights, on Victory Records.
Packed with visual goodies, the DVD portion could have been released solo -- that it comes with a CD is a zesty bonus. The feature presentation, the Kill the House Lights documentary, starts off as an invigorating look into the band's rise from basement shows to Warped Tour, from Eyeball to Island. The band members come off as funny and kind, with just a whiff of intense social awkwardness. Watching the guys talk about "Tone Geoff" Rickley's beginning as a vocalist, their high school and college years and touring feels more like a conversation than a DVD. These guys could be your friends.
At the same time, though, the film catches the band at a crossroads. While the film is generally awesome, one can't help but feel bummed by the ending. Thursday's accomplished a lot, but the band is still label-less, steady only in its will to survive.
"We surpassed every dream I had as a kid, and where do you go from there, you know?" is the last line, and it kind of kills off the good times. Please don't let this be a swan song.
Still though, it's a solid documentary, going through each of the band's albums in decent detail. Also included are a live show and a couple of videos of Thursday's cute, scamp-y hijinx. Who knew the guys who wrote "War All the Time" could be funny?
The CD half of Kill the House Lights is solid, too. Of utmost excitement to fans will be the new material that begins the disc. "Ladies and Gentleman: My Brother, The Failure" is a curb-stomp of an opener, a groovy hardcore number that recalls hints of Refused and Botch, but filtered through the Thursday spectrum. No one sings like Rickley, and that's a compliment. Dude gets epic here. Same goes for the rest of the band. Drummer Tucker Rule kicks out the jams while the angular fretwork of Tom Keeley, Steve Pedulla and Tim Payne rocks and/or rolls all over. Final kudos goes to whoever thought steel drums and synths would sound cool on the bridge, 'cause they do. Give keyboardist Andrew Everding a raise, clam flammit.
Thursday amps up the 'core on track two, "Dead Songs." Maybe it's unresolved anger at Island, but "Dead Songs" sure does throw down a lot in less than three minutes. The third new cut, "Voices on a String," is a little more in touch with last year's very cool A City by the Light Divided. The guitars are a little less crunchy and the synths more prominent.
From there, the CD trots out some hot rarities. "Panic on the Streets of London," a War All the Time B-side, shares two parts with "The Other Side of the Crash," but they're really cool parts so the repetition doesn't matter. Also included are instrumental snippets "A Sketch for Time's Arrow," "The Roar of Far Off Black Jets" and "Music from 'Kill the House Lights.'"
The CD rounds itself out with some live cuts and demos of popular tunes like "How Long Is the Night?" and "Paris in Flames." The demos are cool in a music historian way, especially the rougher mix of "Telegraph Avenue Kiss." They offer a view of how the band writes. But the live cuts are ho-hum. They're expertly performed and recorded, but like any live performance, you had to be there. The live material feels like filler, especially when there are other Thursday cuts that could've made it onto Kill the House Lights: "Jet Black New Year," from the Five Stories Falling live EP, or "Mass as Shadows," from In Honor: A Compilation to Beat Cancer, while already commercially available, would have been welcome additions.
Regardless of these nitpickings, though, Kill the House Lights will satisfy many a Thursday fan. Chock full of sound and vision, it is both an excellent placeholder while Thursday plans its next audio assault and a fine odds-n-ends collection.