Thrice - Palms (Cover Artwork)


Palms (2018)


After 2016’s glorious, hard rock leaning, post-hiatus album, “To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere”, where is it that this band had left to go within their genre? This band has matured and grown exponentially with each record they’ve released since their first in 2000. Each album that this band, who’ve never been afraid to experiment, has it’s own unique sound. Releasing two subsequent concept records based on the four classical elements is a testament to that. With a rejuvenated sense of purpose in the last record, this one is another step forward for the band but one that, at times, challenges the listener and even the most rabid fan.

Leading off with a haunting synth sound that invokes a John Carpenter soundtrack, “Only Us” kicks things off and sets the tone for the rest of this album. Kensrue’s vocals sound as powerful as ever on this massive tune while giving us a message of unity and coming together as an “us” instead of “us and them”. Though they’ve evolved through the years, Thrice always, undeniably sound like Thrice. This lead off track to “Palms” is no different.

The following two songs, lead off single “The Grey” and “The Dark” have a similar massive, catchy sound that the band has been polishing over the past while. Melodic but intense “The Grey” is a fine example of passion and heavy done in typical Thrice fashion. “The Dark” brings back those moody synths that could have been used to great effect a lot more throughout this album. It could have been the defining sound for “Palms” but one could argue that less is more in certain situations. Something worth noting about “The Dark” is the fact that there are over a thousand different vocals recorded from volunteers phoning in and singing the final chorus while being mixed down to actually make it effective within the song.

Brothers Riley and Eddie Breckenridge’s respective drums and bass dance throughout every song. Proving them to be an unstoppable rhythm section to hold up Teppei’s intricate guitar work and Kensrue’s powerful vocals.

This band have always known how to write a big, fat, catchy chorus but as things wear on with this album the band seem to get more complacent in the need for an earworm on every song. Something they’ve become increasingly adept at. The songs become a little less exciting and a little more paint by numbers alt-rock.

Piano-laced, “Everything Belongs” at times almost comes across like a U2 ballad. While U2 has become a four-letter word among music critics (and just about every music snob on the planet), Thrice have a place for this pretty little tune on the record and showcase another style for the band. It just would have been nice to hear something more unique out of such an exciting band that constantly pushes itself to move forward.

Eddie’s bass leaps out on “A Branch In The River” and we are treated to the closest thing Thrice has come to in terms of it’s old school sound in years but it fails to capture the immediate aggression of their formative years in no small part thanks to the lack of Dustin’s distinct yell. His vocals are layered to no end and buried in the mix.

“Hold Up A Light” is reminiscent of 90’s alt rock with a quiet verse, loud chorus trade off that’s just been done to death. Thrice are far more creative then they let on with some of these songs.

Album closer “Beyond The Pines” is a sweeping though gentle affair that sum up where Thrice are at musically in 2018. Their songs have slowed, quieted and been given room to explore textures, songwriting, instruments and melodies, for better or for worse.

Lyrically Dustin seems to eschew his religion in some songs while embracing it in others. Claiming to have “embraced a non dualistic way of looking at the world” through his readings and breaking out of those “black and white patterns”. Clearly this can be heard on “The Grey”, the title of which is used as a metaphor for this way of thinking. Elsewhere on the aforementioned “Beyond The Pines”, Kensrue claims “there are deeper realities at work, and nothing sorts itself as neatly as we’d like it to”. Though Kensrue may not be writing his second god worship record here, the first not related to Thrice in any way, he’s still clearly very much a spiritual person.

The ingredients are all here. No one needs another Thrice hardcore album. What we want is for Thrice to continue to push their boundaries sonically. While that is very well implemented on a good many songs on this record, we are also given some melba toast music. This is still better than so many rock records coming out these days but Thrice set the bar incredibly high for themselves. There will be a stumble along the way.