As children, we are all prone to believing just about anything we see, particularly when a figure we idolize bears superhuman strength or the uncanny ability to shoot a basketball from space, hit it off the Statue of Liberty, off the St. Louis Arch, around the rim of the Grand Canyon and still get nothin’ but net. You see, when those we place on pedestals falter, it stings us on a personal level and recovery is crucial in order to restore our lost faith. So, if the case is your hero gets his dunk blocked or say, gives baseball a go when it’s obviously not his forte, their ability to continually prove why you put them on said pedestal will inevitably bowl you right over.
Consider longtime scene favorite Thrice that icon of worship, perpetually ranked high by fans as one of modern music’s most creatively genius bands. For some, the band’s last release, a four-set EP series entitled The Alchemy Index, lacked the grit and triumph of 2005’s Vheissu. While it was hardly a step in the wrong direction, Beggars brings the band back to doing what it does best: progressive accessibility. The ambitious Alchemy series exercised in experimentation, dabbling in everything from country-folk to industrial; for Beggars, the band has fine-tuned their ideas and developed a densely-rich scope that shows off each member’s unflappable talent & attention to detail. Like a companion piece to Vheissu, Beggars contains all the evolutionary experimentation from that record and blends The Artist in the Ambulance’s mainstream appeal with The Alchemy Index’s brilliant lyrical work & admiration for acoustics.
What assists Thrice in standing out from their peers is not just how technical each member can be, but also how backwards the band has evolved. Starting out as alternative-metal, the band made a name for themselves in 2001 before stepping into the major-label factory and gaining more fans through an aggressive, albeit far more accessible, record. To make things even more confusing, Thrice continued to further their maturity as artists with a major-label follow-up that wasn’t set-up for mainstream ears. What in the blazes were these men thinking?! They were on Island for goodness sake! It’s either auto-tune that voice, Kensrue, or to the back of the barn with ya!
Truth be told, Thrice has tamed themselves a tad this time around and taken all we enjoyed about past records for a beautifully-crafted album that catches more attention with every listen. “The Weight” is a painfully sentimental & aching tune surrounded by a groovy rhythm and Dustin Kensrue’s heavy thoughts on destined fate. “In Exile” provides a steady backbone for Kensrue’s words, words that echo the lovely guitar work of Teppei Teranishi; and lead single “All the World is Mad” would be right at home on Vheissu, full of ominous warnings and a mercilessly fierce bass rhythm. Riley & Eddie Breckenridge work not only as brothers, but as true bandmates to create a depth of sensational rhythms, giving the record a very sensual bass-driven sound. Look no further than the organ-led “Circles,” with a quiet snare beat careening in and out of every verse, which then carry over onto “Doublespeak,” a jazz-like confession piece overladen with Teranishi’s ivory tickling, which ultimately gives the track its lifeblood.
For Thrice, cohesion and craft have always been the two C-words they live by, and with Beggars, it’s really no different. Every ingredient here relies on the other to make it work, much how some childhood heroes had to work alongside teammates in order to, oh I don’t know, show the Monstars who really plays like a champ and can save the Toon Squad from intermittent doom. Point being that without every piece of the Thrice puzzle, Beggarswould be nothing without each member’s constructive advice & (what seems like) effortless work.
Dustin Kensrue showed on his solo debut that he can be just as effective as a soft, introspective songwriter as he can be a bruiser (“Talking Through Glass”), and on songs that tells stories like “Wood & Wire,” we witness a true musician building significance not only for himself and his bandmates, but for those who understand his talents (it may be one of Thrice’s best-conceived recordings). “My heart is filled with songs of forever,” he states on “In Exile.” “There’s no point in putting roots too deep when I’m moving on.” Amen, brother; preach on, indeed.
Confident, steady and always changing, Beggars never wallows in its own self-righteousness, and much like the subject of “in Exile,” it never overstays its welcome, always moving onward and upward to see what else lies ahead. On the title track, it’s somewhat ironic for Kensrue to thwart all those who “stride with conceit,” because for as humble as Thrice may be, they have proven time and time again that life up on a pedestal, a roost that fans have built for them, is far more comfortable than life down in the gutters.