CD Review of Common Existence by Thursday
Thursday: Common Existence
Recommended if you like
The Cure, U2, Jawbox
Epitaph Records
Common Existence

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

hursday sprouted from the vibrant New Jersey punk scene of the late 1990s. At the time, countless bands were plugging away, playing the DIY basement shows that seemed to be happening every weekend, but something about Thursday made them stick out – their cerebral lyrics and guitar histrionics showed a band whose music longed for the space of an arena and the ornate production qualities that their scene usually frowned upon. With each of their first four albums, the band’s recording budget grew, but their songwriting skills didn’t always match their ambitions.

Now signed to "major indie" Epitaph Records, Thursday has returned with Common Existence, which finds the band scaling its sonic attack down—at least compared to its usual standards; after all, they hired David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) again, and he’s not exactly known for his minimal production style. "Resuscitation of a Dead Man" and "Last Call" starts the album off in the same, over-reaching style of their older material with sheets of effects pedal-wrapped guitars clashing with Geoff Rickley’s vocals and the rhythm section’s chaotic bounce. Sadly, without a memorable melody between the two of them, the songs have zero lasting impact.

Fridmann colors the material with sparkling dashes of delay and reverb, and he clearly understands what Thursday is going for; if there’s any blame to be thrown around, little of it should be directed at the acclaimed producer. Should he have made them hold back on all of the atmospherics and concentrate more on the actual skeletons of the songs? Maybe, but it probably wouldn’t have helped anyway.

Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla spew one proggish guitar tantrum after the other and while there are some intriguing moments at work here, the quintet rarely spools together strong songs out of them. "Circuits of Fever," in particular, features some of the duo’s tastiest riffing in years, but the arrangements fail them. Songs like "Subway Funeral" meander along, never revealing anything compelling enough to fully engage you. Rickley’s singing style has always been a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing, and he doesn’t dial down the vocal dramatics on Common Existence. He’s certainly learned how to control his instrument better than he did on Thursday’s early albums, but his constant wailing still comes on too thick for its own good.

The band has shown flashes of greatness in the past. "Understanding in a Car Crash" and "Signals over the Air" both proved that the guys were capable of melding the over-the-top guitarscapes of bands like the Cure with the rawness of post-hardcore and coming out with something completely fresh and vital. Too bad they haven’t remembered – or applied – the formula this time out.

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