From Andrew Everding’s songwriting influence and backing screams, samples and keys; to the talented, layered back-and-forth nature of guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla; from frontman Geoff Rickly’s direct but emotive vocals and scathing screams to the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Tim Payne and tight AF drummer Tucker Rule; Thursday’s music was truly the grand sum of its six members individual roles. Much like your Glassjaw’s and your From Autumn To Ashes’, this band was a real staple act of 2000’s alternative/emo/rock/post-hardcore scene, and all for a very good reason.
Last week, the legendary Thursday out of nowhere announced they’ll be returning to Australia in March 2018, with support from their mates in Quicksand – marking their first Aussie appearance in six years since Soundwave 2012. In Thursday being one of my all-time favourite bands, a band that I’ve loved dearly since I was 12 no less, I for one am beyond excited for this tour! In fact, since this run’s announcement, I’ve been thinking long and hard about my absolute favourite songs from the alternative/post-hardcore New Jersey act. And so I figured that I’d share them all with you right here because I just know that you were all losing sleep over thinking, “Oh my god, what are Alex’s favourite Thursday songs!?”
‘This Side Of Brightness’ (‘Waiting’, 1999):
Let’s start this piece off with one of the very songs that first made Thursday – ‘This Side Of Brightness‘. Sure, there are some other good songs from ‘Waiting‘ you could pick. Like the 15-year anniversary edition B-side from said debut LP ‘Mass As Shadows‘, ‘Dying In New Brunswick‘, ‘Where The Circle Ends‘, or ‘Ian Curtis‘, but this is the key one. Easily.
Right from the opening guitar chords and mournful violin melody that begins ‘This Side Of Brightness‘, you just know that this is going to be a special track. The song’s unpolished recording and production sounds like a one-time-only magical basement show is unfolding right before you (I mean, this was their first album, after all) but that only adds to it. The track’s raw but powerful instrumentation nails that angsty, emotive and doubtful tone that the pre-2000’s music such as this often captured so well. And Geoff Rickly’s emotional vocal delivery, that while still deep into his tone-deaf years, makes Thursday’s poetic lyrics (and as a result, their wider music) so goddamn relatable. Simply put, ‘This Side Of Brightness‘, despite being rough around the edges, is burning with passion and earnestness throughout and it displays a sound that Thursday would capitalise on for years.
‘Asleep In The Chapel’ (‘War All The Time’, 2003):
‘Asleep In The Chapel‘ is one of the more gripping, lyrically eerier songs found on 2003’s stellar record, ‘War All The Time‘. As it’s a song that embodies what the band’s third record was really about; not the larger political woes of the time, not the Bush administration, nor the war in Iraq and the growing turmoil in wider Middle-East. But the everyday working class citizens, in all of their internal pain and worrying doubts, who now have to live with these local and worldly shitstorms hanging above them in the bleary backdrops of their daily lives.
The upbeat acoustic guitar that punctuates this track ahead of the clean, delay-ridden guitars that hang back in the mix contrasts so well with Rickly’s poetic lyrics; lyrics that set the song’s scene beautifully yet ominously throughout. (“Since we can’t compete with martyred saints/We’ll douse ourselves in gasoline/And hang our bodies from the lampposts/So that our shadows turn into bright lights” from the verse, and “We woke up this morning to a street filled with a thousand burning crosses/And what we thought was the sunrise/Just passing headlights” during the bridge). ‘Asleep In The Chapel‘, at its core, is a wake-up call; a warning to those out there who simply wish and hope for things to change and that the world will eventually unfuck itself on its own, yet do not act on such events and shut their eyes and ears, hoping someone else will figure it out for them.
It’s also one of the best songs one can find on ‘War All The Time‘.
‘Magnets Caught In A Metal Heart’ (‘No Devolución‘, 2011):
‘No Devolución‘ was the last record to bare Thursday’s name upon it. While some may argue that a certain 2006 release is the black sheep of this band’s career, I sternly feel that this final record is most deserving of that title. Taking the rawer, livelier, noisier production of 2009’s ‘Common Existence‘ and creating these longer, denser tracks (‘Stay True‘, ‘Turnpike Divides‘, ‘A Gun In The First Act‘), ‘No Devolución‘ was a far cry from where the band began and might as well be the very record that killed Thursday. Which sucks, as it’s a solid release in its own right!
Now, while I will give honourable mentions to other songs like ‘No Answers‘ and ‘Fast To The End‘, it’s actually the lead single ‘Magnets Caught In A Metal Heart‘ that is one of the band’s most worthy tunes. With an incredibly memorable, super-charged chorus, a truly bittersweet tale of love (one that would be exposed deeper on No Devotion’s debut album, ‘Permanence‘), a stronger sense of atmospherics, and a new-fabled post-punk/post-rock sound that had been hinted at on the past two releases, ‘Magnets Caught In A Metal Heart‘ is a bonafide late game banger for Thursday’s career.
Let’s just hope they don’t skip over it come March 2018…
‘Friends In The Armed Forces’ (‘Common Existence’, 2009):
Going back one album previously to 2009’s oddly underrated ‘Common Existence‘, this poignant track deals with the theme clearly spelt out in its title: having close friends that you care about dearly fighting in the U.S. Army, but for a war that you don’t agree with nor one you can bring up to them without making matters very heated. It’s a conflicted interpersonal telling of one’s own politics raging against those of you the ones you love, people who giving their time and blood for something you cannot abide by. “We support you as people but we don’t support your efforts” bluntly stated Andrew Everding in a Rock Sound interview at the time and that’s as good a summarization of the song you’ll ever get.
The song’s screaming guitar leads, driving distorted riffs, surging tempo, bouncy rhythms and striking choruses evoke this personal conflict of love for a person but disgust for their role in something much larger, much more vile; ranging from moments of pure rage and chaos to wishful peace. ‘Friends In The Armed Forces‘ is easily one of the most personal songs from this latter period of Thursday’s career, of which there are many other great examples to choose from (like the gut-wrenching ‘Subway Funeral‘). Yet there’s just something so… timely about ‘Friends In The Armed Forces‘; one that was true upon its release in 2009 and still applies now nearly ten years on.
Plus, Thursday are also really fucking good are writing terrific bridge sections that help take their song’s to a whole new level (also see: ‘For The Workforce. Drowning‘ and ‘Cross Out The Eyes‘). These moments coupled with Rickly’s scene-setting lyrics matching the song’s unbridled emotion, this track’s stunning bridge section is one of the band’s most memorable in my humble opinion, complete with the lyrics:
“I’ve seen them float like butterflies back home
I can feel the desert’s heat
When you’re standing next to me
Our friendship offers no relief
Stay with me now, just hear me out
Don’t want to lose you to that great black cloud
You’ve seen in the path a bullet makes
When it calls you by your name
And the medic can’t play the rhythm of your heart
So it starts to fade like footsteps in the march as the parade passes by.“
‘Beyond The Visible Spectrum’ (‘Common Existence’, 2009):
Here’s yet another beauty from ‘Common Existence‘; the masterful ‘Beyond The Visible Spectrum‘.
If someone was to ask me how engaging Thursday’s music could be and how good of a musical picture they can paint with their songs, this surreal cut would be high up as one of the first examples I’d show them. This was actually the first song I heard from the band’s glorious fifth album and it’s one of the record’s most haunting, other-worldly compositions. It’s a song that sums up the wider record’s intent; the collective experiences each of us faces in our lives. ‘Beyond The Visible Spectrum‘ is at both times an intricate yet movingly ethereal rock track, one that reaches a true dream state once its repeating, floaty outro arrives and the vocals beautifully echo that forever repeating call of “Everyone you love surrounds you“.
While it may be a bit of a cop-out, this is a song that often leaves me speechless.
‘Paris In Flames’ (‘Full Collapse’, 2001):
Well, shit, it’s probably about time we had a song from 2001’s seminal ‘Full Collapse‘ aye?
The band’s breakthrough record features many a great tune; the geopolitical themed ‘Autobiography Of A Nation‘, the 2000’s emo/alternative staple ‘Cross Out The Eyes‘, the tragic losses experienced as a child in ‘Standing On The Edge Of Summer‘, the driving punk-rock sonic missile that is ‘Concealer‘, and the longer, swelling, post-rock inclined ‘How Long Is The Night?‘. But the chorus-affected guitar leads, groovy staccato chords, dark backing strings, pained throaty screams, and incredibly ominous, almost-end-of-days-like lyrics make ‘Paris In Flames‘ a raw, aggressive, yet always haunting and focal post-hardcore tune. And is still to this day one of Thursday’s best songs.
(Also, yes, as per this song, I was quite proud of myself when I came up with this article’s title. Thanks for asking).
‘War All The Time’ (‘War All The Time’, 2003)
Just four simple words sum up the eponymous song from what is arguably Thursday’s best record: what a fuckin’ song!
The track’s opening bass riff is simply unmistakable even now. How it then flows and builds from said riff and into these huge, caustic sections of sky-scraping alternative rock that marks it as an instant dynamic standout. And the effortless way in which Rickly and co. manage to sum up so many different emotions of wayward youth and scared adulthood to gross feelings of disenfranchisement across this song’s four-minutes is an achievement and a half. If there was even an anthem for our dying modern society or a final confluence of all the themes that make up this song’s sensational parent album, then this is it. Nearly ten years on since first hearing ‘War All The Time‘, I still get goosebumps every single time I hear it; an ominous, eye-catching footnote crying out to world’s bleak well-worn pages above.
Play this one at my funeral, please and thank you.
‘Steps Ascending’ (‘War All The Time’, 2003):
Yes, yes, the ferocious ‘For The Workforce, Drowning‘, the dire climax of ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be You‘, the subversive ‘Division St.‘ and the chorus-driven ‘Signals Over The Air‘ are no doubt great songs. We all know this to be true. But I feel that it is ‘Steps Ascending‘ (as well as the spine-tingling epic that is the top-tier title track from ‘War All The Time‘ mentioned just before) that are this records strongest, primmest cuts.
‘Steps Ascending‘ pummels your ears and heart right from the very start, delivering staggering guitars and pumping drum beats that underpin a very tragic, very real story of losing a close friend to gun violence following a fist fight with them; resulting in the singer’s seething heartache of never being able to properly apologise to a friend that’s now left this world. Capping off such a heartfelt track comes this swaying section of a simple drum groove and layered guitars, with these forever haunting final lyrics of:
“I ran down the stairs/And into the garden/Put both my hands into the soil/In the spring/You will bloom/Like her heart/Through the blouse/In the back of the ambulance/As it turned and turned down the street (one more turn won’t you come back to me?)/As it turned on its red lights/You were turning into…Red roses“.
It is truly unforgettable stuff. And when played live, it takes on an even greater sound when created right there in the moment on-stage.
‘Running From The Rain’ (‘A City By The Light Divided’, 2006):
One of the few but genuinely stunning songs from 2006’s much-contested, often lamented album, ‘A City By The Light Divided‘ (alongside ‘The Other Side of the Crash/Over and Out (Of Control), ‘Telegraph Avenue Kiss‘, and ‘We Will Overcome‘) is the record’s wonderfully upbeat, beautifully heartwarming seventh track, ‘Running From The Rain‘.
Originally a tune crafted from the group’s secondary writing and practice/jamming sessions and while never originally meant to be a track for ‘A City By The Light Divided‘, ‘Running From The Rain‘ is one of Thursday’s most mesmerising tracks; one that truly feels like coming home when you arrive at that touching outro. Packed with a couple mammoth choruses, expansive guitar melodies, subtle melodic layers, and coupled with emotive, imagery-crafting lyrics of one’s fastly passing youth and imagery life, this piece gracefully ascends to the opening heavens above; a place that few other Thursday songs exist at.
Actually, in this very video, the band themselves talk about creating this magnificent piece, with singer Geoff Rickley labelling it as having a different feel than most other Thursday songs and also calling it “less neurotic” than their other works. Look, whichever way you (or the band) may want to spin it, ‘Running From The Rain‘ is a sorely underrated deep cut that will sadly never get the full recognition and limelight it so rightfully deserves. All because it wasn’t a single, didn’t get a music video, and is a part of the band’s most contentious records. I hate this world sometimes.
‘Understanding In A Car Crash’ (‘Full Collapse’, 2001):
COME ON! AS IF IT WAS GOING TO BE ANY OTHER THURSDAY SONG TO END THIS ARTICLE!
‘Understanding In A Car Crash‘ is THE Thursday song to beat. It marks the full, proper opening moment of ‘Full Collapse‘, is one of the best songs from said record, is a song that the band have played for years (and will play until they die). It’s the song that has in many ways come to define their band, is arguably their most popular track, and was/is a benchmark for music from that time. As soon as that feedback ends and Rule’s two snare flam hits ring out, it’s game on! From the track’s urgent pace, Rickly’s cryptic yet still touching and honest lyricism, the explosive dynamic shifts between the quiet and the clean to the loud and the gritty, that oddly dreamy-as-shit breakdown before the end, to that spine-tingling finale and the final exasperated scream; this is a true classic.
This is where it really started and where it’ll really end.
Thursday will be touring Australia in March 2018 with Quicksand, playing many of the songs I mentioned here. Grab your tickets from Live Nation, and you can find the full dates below. Also, roast me in the comments below for passing off subjectivity and objectivity like I don’t do that in every single fuckin’ review I write.
Wednesday, March 7th – Sydney
Friday, March 9th – Brisbane
Sunday, March 11th – Melbourne
Tuesday, March 13th – Adelaide
*Full Headline Sets by Both Bands*