CD Review of A City by the Light Divided by Thursday

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A City by the Light Divided
starstarstarstarno star Label: Island Records
Released: 2006
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It’s been three years since Thursday released War All the Time, their astonishing major-label debut. 2001’s Full Collapse put them on the mainstream map, with most of the credit going to MTV and their incessant playing of the “Understanding in a Car Crash” video, but War All the Time solidified the band as a true force. Three years is a long time, and varied reports led me to believe the band had broken up in late 2004. It wasn’t until I heard about the release of A City by the Light Divided that I decided to do some research as to just what was going on. In short, major tour fatigue, rather serious sickness, and even rehab stints had brought the band to a screeching halt.

But now they’re back and sounding remarkably focused on A City by the Light Divided. Thursday has always been a lyrically-centered band, first and foremost, with singer Geoff Rickly’s narrative writing weaving crystal clear images in the listener’s mind. The band has always been labeled as an emo band, but their lyrics have always gone much deeper than the clichéd “boy-girl breakup” nonsense. This disc is no exception, particularly on tracks such as “We Will Overcome” (Our fathers plant arms in foreign soil. Our brothers die and no one knows where it ends (it ends between the crosshairs) all lies weave a thousand deaths around us.) and “The Lovesong Writer” (Fifty red roses falling apart / in the hands of someone / that you scripted and left behind.) Rickly scrawls some of his most vivid portraits on this record.

Musically, Thursday has expanded their horizons in comparison to past releases, due in large part to the addition of Andrew Everding on keyboards. His work on the album further fleshes out Thursday’s already deeply layered sound, but the improvement is immediately noticeable, even in the most subtle ways. Producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips) was brought in to add a more atmospheric and experimental aura to Thursday’s sound, and he has succeeded. Guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla interplay nicely in front of overly distorted guitars and a wide variety of sound effects. Rickly’s temperamental voice is arrestingly emotional by nature, but coupled with his affecting lyrics he nearly draws tears from the listener. “Running from the Rain,” the record’s strongest track, illustrates this experience to perfection.

The only missteps on the album can be blamed on slight overproduction. “Into the Blinding Light” degenerates into a muddled mess that will have most desperately reaching for the “next track” button. “At This Velocity” is fancied up old school Thursday that relies a bit too heavily on artificial effects.

Nevertheless, the album is a predominately solid piece of work. “Counting 5-4-3-2-1” is the deceptively catchy single making the rounds across radio stations, but be forewarned that the album is quite intense and that track is not at all a reflection of the rest of the songs. Longtime Thursday fans should be pleased with this release, and as for everyone else it’s never too late to discover a band that writes such heartfelt and emotional music.

~Bill Clark