It's weird to re-discover a band years and years after you discovered them.
I saw Thrice on their first east coast tour, opening for Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music at an incredibly vacant Worcester Palladium in Massachusetts. My friend and I commented how they looked like, and sounded like, wolves. Fierce, howling creatures that cared not for the daylight. I picked up The Illusion of Safety shortly after its release and was hooked. Their previous effort, Identity Crisis is solid in its own right, but it seemed that Safety was where the band had reached a perfect mix of melodic hardcore, emotion and alternative rock to soothe the ears of a broad spectrum of listeners.
Since then, Thrice has been involved in a series of projects: a rather radio-friendly release on Island that has some superior tracks and some forgettable; an ambitious and underrated art-rock record; and an even more ambitious yet incredibly flawed four-disc Alchemy Index series that promised much but failed to truly differentiate between its four 'elements.'
And so now there is Beggars, a 10-song amalgam of just about everything this band has created, pushed a bit to a point just short of radio-friendly but not so artsy to be isolating. It's like a great drink; it's subtle and you're not sure of it at first, because it lacks the muster of the rail booze that hits you right off. You can't compare it to anything certainly beyond it, but for what it is, it settles right.
And pretty soon, you're fucking plastered. And you wake up and the hangover is glorious, you take two aspirin and you start drinking again.
One standout point of this album is how fucking groovy it is. Literally. The record has this weird dance-ready beat to it: From the opening drum and minor bass beats of "All the World Is Mad" to the hook of "Doublespeak," you're intoxicated by these heavy beats that keep your head weaving through melody.
Lyricist Dustin Kensrue has always been on point. Although always incorporating elements of Christianity (and this record is no exception), there's nothing alienating to those who might not share his faith (or lack thereof). The ambiguity of songs such as "In Exile" might relate to wandering souls such as myself or people finding reason through St. Augustine.
The production on Beggars is probably the most prominent reason it takes some getting used to; the stripped-down feel to the album keeps the elements of it separate. The vocals take some getting used to and the guitar tones seem light. The album almost feels like the points of a star: five tracks pushed each to their limit, brought together into a shape between some invisible connections. But in the end, it somehow mysteriously works.
I loved The Illusion of Safety and though I admired Thrice's efforts through Vheissu and The Alchemy Index artistically, they seemed to never quite hit their mark of creating the brilliance they set out to. I think with Beggars they've done it, but only in a way that you'll realize if you really listen. On some fronts it's almost a dismissible record; thoughts like "He screamed better on 'The Red Death' than 'Talking Through Glass'" might spring to mind. But put these aside and keep the record on for a few more nights. Give this drink another chance.
I guess what excites me most about the album is the title track. The epic finale gives so much anticipation to what is coming; the ending tidal waves of sound only embrace the listener in a calm threat, almost a contained rage. Thrice has taken their early years and sculpted art from the leftovers of their sonic explosions of youth. Take note, for this will be in many end of the year lists.