Review Summary: While Beggars is not the flagship album many people were hoping for, it breaks new ground in a way that should please diehard fans and newcomers alike.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
With their previous release The Alchemy Index, an experimental series of EPs influenced by the four elements of nature, Thrice had put themselves into a difficult position. Although they are a band notorious for constantly changing their sound, all of their albums up until then had flowed quite gracefully into one another instrumentally, but when Beggars was announced, fans hadn’t the faintest idea what the album would entail. Would it pull together the scattered elements of its predecessor, or completely reinvent Thrice forever?
“All the World is Mad”, the first track on Beggars, graciously answers all of the hype and questions of many apprehensive fan boys with its explosive introduction and gripping bass line. Riley Breckenridge displays some of his most intense drumming since The Artist and The Ambulance, while Dustin Kensrue’s voice simply soars over the chaotic guitars and compelling bass groove. While this album builds off all of Thrice’s previous accomplishments, it effortlessly (and quite successfully) casts off all of the experimental risk-taking that made The Alchemy Index so great to make a much simpler album that, quite frankly, just feels right. There are none of the strange vocal effects, outlandish instrument arrangements, electric drum beats, unorthodox recording techniques, etc. that Thrice has become infamous for, just four guys making great music in their home studio.
It is with this more down-to-earth tone that Beggars finds it’s true power. The album comes across much like a live recording would: guitars bleed through, snare vibrations can be heard in quiet sections, there is no senseless overdubbing, and at some points (predominantly the opening of “Wood & Wire”) you can even hear the band talking and shuffling around in the background. Beggars sounds much more powerful and authentic through this medium of delivery, particularly on songs such as “The Weight” and “At the Last”, two of the more aggressive pieces on the album. Unfortunately, some songs fail to keep the momentum of the rest of the album. “Doublespeak,” while featuring a somewhat interesting piano progression courtesy of guitarist Teppei Teranishi, is simply too boring and redundant to deserve a place on the album and feels much more like a B-side. Also the somewhat grandiose track “In Exile” feels unsettlingly new age, with pretentious vocals and uninventive lyrics.
Although the album does contain a lot of energy, some of the slower songs are what make Beggars truly great. “Circles” features mellow guitars and a minimalist drumbeat with just the right amount of syncopation, which both culminate at the climax to form a truly monumental addition to Thrice’s repertoire. “Wood & Wire” and “The Great Exchange” are two of the most beautiful and haunting songs Thrice has ever written. Finally, the closing song “Beggars,” deserves to be given the title of Thrice’s greatest masterpiece (so far) and showcases all of the members’ utmost musical abilities. The way the bass perfectly and effortlessly jumps right in with the simple, modest drum beat shows just how well the Breckenridge brothers make up the rhythm section. Dustin’s vocals build throughout the entire song until it sounds as if his voice will tear apart, just in time to go back to a barely audible tone. The song concludes full blast with an incredible, layered guitar outro, which drifts away into distortion.
Overall, Beggars is not the flagship album many fans were hoping for, but breaks new ground in a similar fashion to The Beatles’ “live” album Let it Be. The experimental attributes of their two (three if you count The Alchemy Index as a double) previous albums are nearly non-existent, but Thrice has made the changeover effectively--albeit abruptly--to create a totally new, raw sound that should please diehard fans and newcomers alike.