Review Summary: Combining their post-hardcore sound with a touch of the mainstream & a little experimentation, this should satisfy both older & newer Thursday fans. But will it demand the multiple listens required to grow on others?
In a sense, it was fairly obvious as to the direction in which post-hardcore band Thursday would head on their 5th album ‘Common Existence’. After attempting a variety of musical techniques on predecessor ‘A City By The Light Divided’, new fans were won and old fans were lost. The follow-up was required to satisfy both camps, so ‘Common Existence’ sees the New Jersey sextet attempt to combine their hardcore beginnings with their more recent experimentation.
Things begin well with the first 3 tracks all being frenetic & aggressive, yet in such a manner that seems controlled to show the band’s maturity. Following on from lead single and album opener ‘Resuscitation of a Dead Man’ (which includes some background yelling from Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath), ‘Last Call’ continues the hectic nature of the music, but adds more melodic vocals and a bridge that first slows down and then adds some uncharacteristic “da da das”. Following this is ‘As He Climbed the Dark Mountain’, a track that has been carried over from their split with Japanese band Envy. Excelling musically, this album highlight has amazingly haunting guitars and top-notch drumming.
However, it isn’t all about the hustle & bustle as ‘Common Existence’ contains 2 slower cuts that are definitely noteworthy. ‘Times Arrow’ is arguably a throwaway song in isolation, but is effectively placed to give a much needed change of pace to proceedings. Later on penultimate track ‘Love Has Led Us Astray’, lead vocalist Geoff Rickly basically has an Ian Curtis (Joy Division) moment. Thankfully, what seems dubiously derivative on paper ends up a thoroughly impressive piece, as all members of Thursday effectively hold themselves back for the song’s betterment. Rickly’s emotional harmonies are especially impressive here.
While the songs contained within the mid-section of this LP play their role well and utilize a number of musical (as well as recording and mixing) techniques to provide variety, most of them seem a little better in the moment and will not necessarily demand repeated listens. ‘Beyond the Visible Spectrum’ shows the first signs of a little more experimentation similar to this album’s predecessor, while the atmospheric leanings of ‘Circuits of Fever’ also stand out. Promisingly, ‘Common Existence’ finishes strongly with the near 6 minute ‘You Were the Cancer’ building up terrifically and providing a fantastic payoff that also happens to sum up the album’s overall sound very well.
When comparing ‘Common Existence’ to Thursday’s back catalogue, it has most in common with their third album ‘War All The Time’, yet is far superior to it. Fans of that LP should like this also, since it predominantly sticks to post-hardcore with a touch of the mainstream here and a little experimentation there. The consistency is solid throughout, while the musicianship is very strong and the songwriting interesting for the most part. The only real concern is that this could be more of a grower of an album and that the mid-section may not demand multiple listens in order for it to grow on some people.
Recommended Tracks: You Were the Cancer, As He Climbed the Dark Mountain, Love Has Led Us Astray & Last Call.
Just some accompanying notes: This review went through quite a few re-writes because the album has grown on me ever since I first listened to it when it was originally released. I’d say I would have rated it about a 3.3 on the first couple of listens. When I wrote the majority of the review, I had it rated as a 3.5 (which may show). But after many listens, it has grown to about a 3.8, so I’ve gone with a 4 expecting even a little more growth. I thoroughly recommend to anyone who has rated it on 1-3 listens to be patient with the LP and definitely hear it in a number of settings (ie: not just on your pc or on headphones).
Thanks NOTINTHEFACE. The first 3 and last 2 songs are very good on this album. It could well feature in my year-end list somewhere.
I tend not to change my ratings once I have locked them in, so I wouldn't really know about problems with the new site layout. I just knew this could grow on me, so I never rated it initially. I did just see your change from 3.5 to 4 though, so we are alike in our opinions.
Yeah, been meaning to make that change for a while. Your review just reminded me. I can honestly say that I like every song on this album except for "Time's Arrow", and "Circuits of Fever" depending on my mood. But my favorite is strangely "Beyond the Visible Spectrum". Love that song.
I have not given this a listen yet. Though every body seems to enjoy it on here, so I may as well give it ago! And Davey, I cant really judge if this is your best review since I have not the time to read all 127 of them, but it is still very well written.
NOTINTHEFACE, I probably agree with you on your 2 least favorite tracks... Although (as stated in the review) 'Times Arrow' is perfectly placed as a change of pace, while I like the way 'Circuits...' segues into 'Subway Funeral'. I like 'Beyond' as well to some extent and it definitely serves its purpose.
Yeah, give it a go James... But note what I said in my first comment. In fact, I feel pretty much all of Thursday's albums are growers actually.
Fair call someguest, although I like the 2 closers better than tracks 4 & 5 myself. While '... Armed Forces' is very solid, I actually feel it's been a little over-rated around these parts. I guess it depends on what one feels about its lyrical content.
Yep, definitely arguable.... But I won't be getting into politics here & now.
This may be an embarrassing fact to admit, but 'You Were The Cancer' was one of the songs that needed to grow on me. I look back on that and think what the f**k was I thinking. Every twist & turn on that track is brilliant and it really shows the maturity of the band.
My main problem is actually that rather than a grower, I've become bored of this as I loved it first go and overplayed it way too much. Thus, War All The Time sticks as my fave Thursday album, but this is a close second.
Great review Davey. You Were The Cancer is clearly the best song, but I agree - first three and last two are best. Circuits of Fever is the only song that I dislike.
Also, is it just me, or is A City By The Light Divided, weirdly recorded...like, it sounds more tinny than it should?This Message Edited On 05.04.09
Tom, we are fairly opposite here mate... Not just with the fact that this album has grown on me and grown a little off you, but also with how we rank Thursday albums. I actually think that excluding their debut, War All The Time is their least effective LP. I have them as
Full Collapse > Common Existence > A City By The Light Divided > War All The Time > Waiting
I have reviewed them all if you would like to read my reasoning
I sort of know what you mean about the weird sound on ACBTLDivided and I am almost certain it was intentional. BUT this album is also weirdly recorded imo. Those echoe'y faraway vocals used on a couple of occasions are interesting and really work.
Oh and give me a few more listens and I would think '... Cancer' would surpass '... Mountain' as my highlight track.
Thanks Ali. As explained above, I think this is an album that requires further listening to properly rate it.
War All The Time > Common Existence > A City By The Light Divided > Full Collapse
I haven't heard their debut. I really don't like Full Collapse, much like I don't like early Thrice. Just that sound...all the songs sound the same to me. I differ from basically everyone, but fuck 'em.
Early Thrice doesn't do it a great deal for me either Tom, but there is something about 'Full Collapse' which really caught my attention. It's most probably the passion & intensity with which it is delivered. I still occasionally have a song like 'Cross Out The Eyes' or 'Paris In Flames' enter my mind and it would be months since I have heard either track. It's actually quite strange as my tastes almost always lean towards the mainstream and 'Full Collapse' is probably Thursday's least mainstream release.