Review Summary: By far the most concise Thrice release to date, Major/Minor races through its eleven tracks with breathless alacrity. Thrice have refined their music to within an inch of its life here, and the overall quality of the resulting album cements their position
Thrice have always been a bit of an enigma. Initially, they were fairly easily classifiable under the generic and sweeping tag of 'post hardcore,' but from around 2005's 'Vheissu' onwards, their sound has become harder and harder to pin down. The Alchemy Index releases and Beggars have only furthered this versatility and unexpectedness which has characterised their music for so long now, and as such it was with excitement and a sense of uncertainty that their new album, Major/Minor, was awaited.
So which incarnation of Thrice is the dominant one this time around? The first few seconds of the opening track, Yellow Belly, don't necessarily clear anything up immediately, as some fans might have hoped. A stereotypically downtuned riff, this time with almost a funky air to it, kicks off Major/Minor's proceedings, and the next four minutes of the song are so fluid, so exhilarating and so varied as to elude classification by the end of the first track. It's got the anthemic sections of old, the more recent melodic maturity seen on Beggars, and the pulsating, serpentine structure and riffs which seem, well, all of Major/Minor's own.
The next forty-five minutes are similarly sui generis, ranging from some surprisingly funky guitar parts in Cataracts, to more traditionally aggressive tracks such as Blur, to awe-inspiring choruses such as Call It In The Air, to the sublime heights of the album to be found in Words In The Water and the retrospective anthology. For lack of a better phrase, it really is an emotional rollercoaster of an album, with unexpected musical ideas and quirks sprouting up as frequently as Kensrue's religious motifs in his lyrics.
Having listened to this album a worrying number of times now, I feel like I've realised the secret to its - to me - astonishing success. It never feels remotely like it's dragging on, at any point. Every song is the perfect length, and the listener is always left with seemingly the exact level of 'I want more' that compels them to spin the whole album several times in a row. It's an addictive listen, a quality which is thanks in no part to the comparative accessibility of Major/Minor compared to Thrice's earlier albums. There are certainly more catchy choruses and simple hooks this time around than there ever were before, and as such I'm pretty sure that the album will come to be seen as 'when Thrice sold out' just as much as 'when Thrice got it just right.' I subscribe far more to the latter view here; the band have taken everything that was good in their music up to this point, mixed it all together into some concise, exhilaratingly refined songs, and the album is all the easier on the ears for it.
That's not to say that Major/Minor is without its flaws; whilst every song has something interesting to offer, some of them are saved only by their choruses, such as Promises and Blinded. Kensrue's lyrics are also more overtly religious than ever before, so if you don't like being 'preached to,' as some have said, then perhaps this album will be a step too far for you. Despite this complaint, the lyrics are universalised to the point that if one wasn't already aware of the band's Christian leanings, it wouldn't be insufferably obvious. Belief systems aside, when the faith-revolved lyrics are applied as masterfully to the music they accompany as they are in Words on the Water, I feel that even the most ardent atheist (such as myself) would struggle to fault them - they certainly don't bother me.
All in all, Major/Minor really does feel rather like a summation of the band's accomplishments and entire career up to this point, and that's no bad thing. The album has been absolutely stripped of chaff and refined to within an inch of its life, rushing along through its almost fifty minute running time with breathless alacrity. Whilst every song has at least one stand-out moment, the album really is built around its astonishing peaks, such as Call It In The Air's chorus and the entirety of Words In The Water. The concise quality that permeates the whole album is a breath of fresh air in the recent progressive music world, as it feels like the world's easiest listen (in a good way) after some weightier recent releases, such as Steven Wilson's monolithic Grace For Drowning. I'm still sure that many 'hardcore' Thrice fans will cite this accessibility as a failing; maybe Anthology will be too poppy for some, or Words In The Water too gentle. But with Major/Minor Thrice have refined their already compelling craft to within an inch of its life, and the end result is a breathless, ceaselessly exciting journey through the 'hardcore-pop-metal-rock-completely ineffable' outfit that the band are at this point in time. A definite candidate for album of the year.