Beautiful, echoing, ethereal guitar begins to filter through your speakers, slowing fading into your consciousness. A man with a slightly nasal voice, most likely in his early 20s, starts to sing something about a robot, and whether it dreams. After about thirty seconds of this repeating, with one final “Wonder what it dreams?,” everything disappears save feedback from the guitar. And then, almost out of nowhere…”Bap, bap!” The band springs into action with two hits of the snare. Guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla’s parts twist, churn and intertwine as drummer Tucker Rule keeps a sort of off-tempo beat that leads into a drum role. Bassist Tim Payne remains a driving force, mostly following the guitar, but adding a necessary emphasis to the bottom part of the song. Then Geoff Rickly–for that is the name of the nasally man in his early 20s–begins to sing again: “Splintered piece of glass / Falls on the seat and gets caught / Broken windows, open locks / Reminders of the youth we lost / In trying so hard to look away from you / I followed white lines ’till the sunset / I crash my car every day the same way.” The song is “Understanding in a Car Crash.” The band is Thursday. The album is Full Collapse. The year is 2001. And something great is happening here.
Thursday began in 1997 with the line-up seen above (with the exception of Steve Pedulla, who replaced original guitarist Bill Henderson before Full Collapse), and grew in popularity in their hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey and the surrounding region of North Jersey largely through word-of-mouth, basement shows, and a four-song demo tape, recorded in 1999. In early 2000, the band released Waiting, their debut full-length, on local label Eyeball Records, later home of My Chemical Romance’s debut album (which happens to be produced by Geoff Rickly). After growing slightly in their local market, Thursday was “discovered” by Victory Records, and signed with that label to release this album. After a highly successful tour with fellow Jersey natives Saves the Day, a video consisting of live footage from that tour was released for “Understanding in a Car Crash,” which received a great amount of airtime on MTV2. Thursday was subsequently hailed as everything from the best “hardcore” band to ever garner any kind of mainstream recognition to the next “Nirvana”, the next movement in alternative rock. With those sort of recommendations, it is hard not to be intrigued. However, allow me to warn you now that both laudations are critically inaccurate.
Thursday are something special, something that is almost unique, and this album–of their five–does the best job of getting that across. The biggest draw musically of Full Collapseis that it is a work of stark contrasts. The aforementioned “Understanding in a Car Crash” demonstrates this beautifully, moving from the harsh and abrasive to the ambient and soothing in a matter of mere seconds. This is a trait that is found throughout the forty-two minutes of the album. Guitarist Tom Keeley is the star of the show here, twisting across frets to create beautiful melodies that transcend normal chord progressions; Steve Pedulla generally provides the garnish. The two always play off of each other very well, such as the in the pre-verse of “Understanding”, or in the extended intro to “Autobiography of a Nation.”
Rickly’s vocal delivery is likewise a study in contrasts: he alternates between gut-wrenching screams and more tender murmurs, often juxtaposing the two beside each other, such as towards the end of “How Long Is the Night?” His lyrics focus on themes of loss, alienation, youth, despair, detachment, and modern society writ large. “Tuesday wakes up silent and there aren’t enough pills / To sleep / Like a miswired short-wave radio…When you live in a nightmare / It’s written all over your face,” he sings at the end of “I Am the Killer.” “We all dance to the same beat when we’re marching / Yeah, the TV tells us what we need to know,” Rickly sings in “Autobiography of a Nation.” “The sides we take / Divide us from our faith / And the morning dove gets caught / In the telephone wire,” he sings on “Cross Out the Eyes,” the album’s second single. This song also shows another side of Thursday, one that is further developed on later albums, the side that calls to mind dirty city skylines and the kids that live beneath them.
Full Collapse is generally pigeon-holed as a ‘post-hardcore’ album, and, while comparisons to bands such as Glassjaw and At the Drive-In might be appropriate, by and large this album is not post-hardcore in the way it is has generally been heard recently. Look for no filler breakdowns, wannabe deathcore stunts, over-sexed stage drama or eyeliner here. Thursday is the real deal. Thursday proved to the world once and for all that not all hardcore kids are idiots. You can play “screamy” music and still create intelligent, intelligible art. And Full Collapse deserves to be treated as such: a genuine work of art. And besides…anything that pisses Pitchfork off this much must have some potential, right?