Being a resident of the [not so] great state of New Jersey, I always make a point to keep up with all of the bands that come out of my state yearly. Of recent times, one of the most interesting (and successful) groups to come from the Garden State are the North Jersey heroes, Thursday. This post-hardcore band (yes, post-hardcore, not emo/screamo or any of that ilk) combines elements of their influences, bands such as The Smiths
, Joy Division
, and The Cure
, into a chiming, visceral sound that has an extremely unique nature to it. Released in late 1999, the band's debut album Waiting
is one of the finest examples of the potential that Thursday have honed thus far throughout their career.
One of Waiting
's most engaging qualities is singer Geoff Rickly's unique approach to songwriting. Rickly combines disturbing imagery with soft, beautiful phrasings in his lyrics. Such dynamic song topics are matched by Rickly's wide vocal range, a high-pitched, almost ethereal sound that is often accentuated by his band mates', or his own, screaming. Despite this, Thursday share very few similarities to other post-hardcore acts such as Thrice
or the recently departed Boysetsfire
. Thursday are clearly more similar to their indie inspirations, while also working elements of progressive rock in the vein of Rush
into their songwriting. The band's penchant for using odd time signatures, multiple key and tempo breaks, and sectional-layered instrumentation drives this point even further home.
, for all of it's curiosity from a songwriting and performing standpoint, is a relatively straightforward album at its core. It's sound is decidedly true to Thursday's roots: it sounds like it was recorded in a basement. Thursday got their start playing alongside bands such as Hot Water Music
, At the Drive-In
, among others, in Geoff Rickly's basement at 331 Somerset in New Brunswick, NJ. Waiting
captures the feel of that basement music: it's raw and unkempt, yet retains plenty of melodic quality to it. This type of atmosphere is as much a part of Waiting
's overall package (from album art to CD decoration) as the music itself. Thursday's tribute to the self-confinement that they would break the bonds of is "Dying in New Brunswick," a despairing anthem of rage and sorrow. "Dying in New Brunswick" features everything there is that makes Thursday a curiosity in and of themselves, with a little more flair to it. It’s the most punk-like song to be found on Waiting
, due in part mostly to the raucous chorus and smatterings of emphatic screaming. Rickly's cries of "Writing you this letter…"
so you can "cry yourself to sleep at night"
, are just the lyrically content that may have Thursday's music misinterpreted in favor of that of the bastardized meaning of "emotional hardcore." On the whole, "Dying in New Brunswick" is a semi-depressing tale of painful growth for a hopeless case, a point that Thursday seem to want to convey with Waiting
Aside from capturing Thursday's roots with its sound, Waiting
is also clearly designed to be listened to via headphones. Most of the album's beautiful subtleties can only be fully appreciated with the most direct form of listening. From the folk-orchestrated introduction of "This Side of Brightness," to the inspiring mini-instrumental of "Introduction," to the album's provocative closer "Where the Circle Ends," there is perhaps no better example of the importance of headphones than "In Transmission." A relatively mellow song, with an undertone as deep as the Marianas Trench, "In Transmission" contains plenty of delicate nuances and surprises that new ones can be discovered with every listen. The chilling guitar lines of string slingers Tom Keeley and Bill Henderson cast a mesmerizing sense of compassion on the song, from beginning to breakdown to end. Particularly the breakdown, which sums the song up in a nutshell, in glorious post-hardcore/post-rock fusion brilliance. "In Transmission" is easily one of the most well-structured song on Waiting
, but it's hardly the most meaningful.
Actually, that title is easily awarded to the album's opener, "Porcelain." A song about suicide to open an album full of insecurity and violence in an artful package seems rather fitting, as that's exactly what porcelain is. The entire track is a metaphor between porcelain and death, as Rickly states that "It's to fragile to hold"
, and that it "shatters in our hands"
. Adding a personal tinge to the song, Rickly goes on to state that "When people die, they take a piece of us with them,"
which is in reference to his friend Kevin (last name not given) who took his own life (and as such became the reason for this song's existence). "Porcelain" isn't the greatest of songs on Waiting
, but it spreads a healthy message, and Thursday are to be commended for it. Another meaningful, and altogether interesting song is "Ian Curtis," a song that Rickly relates to a past relationship of his. Rickly and one of his former girlfriends would often lay in bed together while listening to Joy Division
, the band that Curtis fronted. He relates the idea of Curtis' unfortunate suicide in the line "We heard Ian Curtis kill himself again in your bed…"
"Ian Curtis" is a good song to match its influence, encompassing all of Thursday's positives.
Unfortunately, there are negatives to contend with as well. As good an album as Waiting
is, it isn't without its fair share of drawbacks. For one thing, it's far too short. Once you factor in the eight actual tracks (as the instrumental "Introduction" can easily be construed as filler) you're left with an album of thirty two minutes and eleven seconds in length. You see, you won't want Waiting
this soon. Another serious detraction is Thursday's annoying habit of lingering at the end of their songs, usually repeating tedious lyrics or pieces of music over and over again to the point of "Did the CD skip"" thoughts. However, if you overlook these, you find yourself with an album of exceedingly high quality.
While Thursday have since found their niche, gaining success with subsequent releases, they haven't managed to retain the certain appeal that Waiting
carries. It's unfortunate, because with a little work, this type of charm could be crafted into something incredible. Waiting
is the perfect introduction to Thursday, as any debut album should
be. It's their best moments, and greatest weaknesses in one woefully wondrous collection. Thursday, as artists, can only go up. With their talent they could blast into the stratosphere at any time. I, however, will be content to view them from the proverbial bindings that, according to Thursday, the state of New Jersey has ensnared me in.