Is there a more reliable rock band than Thrice? The band was consistently delivering landmark album after landmark album in the wake of Vheissu, the ambitious The Alchemy Index, and one of my all-time favorite Thrice albums in Beggars. The band approached their eighth studio album, Major/Minor, with veteran poise under the leadership of producer/mixer/engineer Dave Schiffman, who also oversaw Vheissu (audio engineer) and Beggars (mixer). Vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kensrue described their choice of producer in an Alternative Press interview where he said, “We had him come down to our practice space when all the songs were kind of being played and [he] just kind of listened through and talked about them and made a couple changes based on little things said here or there, but it was really minimal in that regard. He was mostly just bringing his experience as an engineer and mixer, just knowing how to get the sounds nailed down. We’re really comfortable with him.” This comfort that Thrice felt with Schiffman pays major dividends as the band continued their mean streak of solid-sounding albums.
The record opens with the slow-building groove of “Yellow Belly” as Kensrue sings on the chorus, “You’re less than half a man, yellow belly and crimson hands / You will one day reap your reckoning, maybe then you’ll understand,” as lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi rips into a great solo between the chorus and the second verse. “Promises” was the first single released from the album and follows the great opener with a great guitar-driven groove and some underrated drumming from Riley Breckenridge. Bassist Eddie Breckenridge continues to impress with some pulsating bass lines that helped to provide a “pulse” to the lyrical direction from Kensrue.
”Blinded” starts off with a simplistic, yet awesome sounding guitar groove that eventually explodes into a wall of sound before the first verse. Dave Schiffman’s audio experience in working with Thrice in the past really ends up being a secret weapon to this album’s brilliance, as he knows exactly what type of performance works best each song for the band. I really enjoyed the verse of, “I was always one of the blameless / Or at least that’s what I believed / I never thought I could have been blinded / Until I could no longer see,” since it brings a rich context behind the band’s music and puts the lyrics firmly at the forefront.
”Cataracts” ends up being one of the stranger-sounding songs on the album, and in context, it could have ended up being a B-side if the lyrical material was not as much in line with the other tracks. The song opens with an awkward sounding guitar riff, but the veteran band makes best use of the riff’s quirkiness as they find their footing with professional ease later on in the song.
My personal favorite from the album comes in the form of “Call It In The Air,” which seems to be a set staple in Thrice’s live shows. The song opens very slowly as Kensrue sings quietly just above the backing instruments before gradually increasing his volume on the chorus of, “Every coin does ring / Every coin will fall / Stop your wavering / Now’s the time so call it out.” On the band’s second time through the chorus, the blast of rock comes shattering through the speakers as Teranishi wails on the guitar to bring further complexity to the song. The first half of the album closes out with “Treading Paper,” as Thrice kicks into a new gear with a great sounding mix of intricate guitar riffs, a punchy bass line, unique drum fills, and a brilliantly focused vocal performance.
The back half opens with sudden urgency on “Blur” as Thrice pick up the tempo rather significantly from the earlier material. The vocals are almost buried under the wall of sound as Kensrue sings into the void, “This image is a night-terror transforming /
Without the hope of morning / My nemesis, I feel it coming for me, and it means to destroy me / Why does this keep happening? / I try to close my eyes but I can’t blink / And the world keeps moving on, black and white blur into one.” Kensrue continues to battle his inner demons on this album, and finds incredible purpose behind every lyric.
”Words In The Water” is eerily reminiscent of the direction the band took on The Alchemy Index, and could have very well been an idea that the band held onto from this moment on Major/Minor. The second verse of, “Wading, waist-deep I saw a book there, in the river / Waiting for me to find it there / I tried to read it, neck deep, treading water / The tide pulled me out to sea,” remains some of my favorite Thrice lyrics to date as they convey such vivid imagery through this dreamy sequence.
Other songs in the back half like “Listen Through Me,” and especially “Anthology” would set Thrice up for continued success in their career as they would become of our scene’s most consistent bands in delivering a solid slate of records in their storied discography. The latter track would later become the name of their sprawling 2012 live double album, that showcased the brilliance of the band in their ability to pull off their live performance that matched, if not surpassed, what they were putting on their studio albums.
”Disarmed” closes out this chapter of Thrice with only a few lyrics mixed in before the band breaks away into an ultra-memorable jam. Kensrue’s passion is felt far and wide in his words of, “We were sons of insurrection, doomed to face the dark alone / ‘Til vicarious perfection, dearly won, was made our own / So where’s your landslide, where’s your victory? / Tell me now, where’s your sting?”
While the vinyl record of this majestic album remains somewhat of a “white whale” for most collectors, I’m sure that a repress may be in order for this Vagrant Records classic that delivers all over its foundation. As much as I enjoyed looking back on this ten year anniversary of Major/Minor, knowing that new music is on the cusp with this year’s Horizons/East, one can only hope this slight nod to the past is in an early indication of the magic the band found on past albums. We’re just ten short days away from all of us finding out for sure.