Thursday / Envy Split

[Temporary Residence, Ltd.; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: post-rock, post-hardcore
Others: Explosions In The Sky, U.S. Christmas, At The Drive-In

This might be the first time I’ve been able to say that I like a Thursday record without feeling obligated to stammer out a qualification. The band’s early work was solid but blunt, relying far too much on frontman Geoff Rickly’s divisive yelps. He’s always had a knack for sounding on the verge of a breakdown, something that doesn’t necessarily hold up for the duration of an album. So, after teetering on the edge of a breakup, Thursday returned with 2006’s A City By The Light Divided, which found the band employing more subtle dynamics and fuller sonic textures to Rickly’s consistently touching lyrics. But the Thursday that fans had fallen for was gone, replaced by a half-neutered rock band that sounded ready for their windblown, mountaintop closeup. It just didn’t sound desperate anymore.

Two years down the road, Thursday finally comes of age with the A-side to this split LP with Japan’s Envy. In four songs, Thursday prove their ambition, but also unleash the urgency that drew listeners to the band in the first place. Opener “As He Climbed The Dark Mountain” is the band at their finest. Charging out of the gates with an avalanche of guitars and drums, Rickly lets his brittle voice loose, carrying the song with a newfound melodic confidence, but never losing touch with his emotional heft. He’s pleading, desperate, and excitable, reminding us that ‘emo’ is supposed to stand for ‘emotion’ — and he’s in no short supply. A stream of moaning guitar swirls around the song’s final act, and Rickly, sounding as though he’s leveled himself, drops to a whisper before disappearing altogether in the stellar instrumental “In Silence.” Without Rickly, Thursday are forced to delve even deeper into post-rock dynamics, with nervous electronic glitches coursing through the song’s trudging, fuzz-baked duration. Piano and guitar noise keep things aloft, while a syncopated drum base keeps the song staggering and — as is once again becoming customary for the band — urgent. “In Silence” later sees a re-imagined remix treatment from Anthony Molina of Mercury Rev, becoming “Appeared And Was Gone.” And, simply put, Thursday have put together their best work here.

Envy, then, have a lot to live up to on their half of the LP, and the Japanese quintet delivers. The serenity of the opening moments of “An Umbrella Fallen Into Fiction,” where a buried xylophone melody seeps through suspended guitar tones and electronic clatter, gives way to a droning buildup four minutes in, and the song rolls into a heaving, layered mass. Elsewhere, the band spins post-hardcore timing into mud-caked sludge, meshing post-metal’s smoldering heaviness with a ferocity born of punk. Melodies worm through the mire, but nourish the songs into fertile bludgeons. “Pure Birth and Loneliness” begins with a meditative passage that snowballs into the song’s desolate belly, guitars soaring on sustained notes and down-tempo melodies playing counterpoint to a churning rhythmic base. These are standard genre tropes used competently, but not inventively.

Envy certainly do their fair share of the legwork in making the split a success, but it’s the surprise of Thursday’s evolution that provides the richest reward.

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