review

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

It’s been a while since Thrice last released a studio album, almost five years in fact. So today is a day I’ve been in anticipation of for quite some time. They’ve always been my favourite band for their drive in pushing forward and trying new sounds and approaches to songwriting and To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is no exception.

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I was tempted to write this as a track-by-track but we’d be here for days so I’ll just go over the main highlights.

The most noticeable singular element of almost all of Thrice’s more recent work has to be the guitar tones, and TBEITBN follows suit. The cleans sound so crisp, bluesy and piercing without drawing your attention from the rest of the song, and the heavier tones feel like a warm musical hug, but not in a way that drowns out the more subtle elements. If you listen to The Window and Black Honey you’ll understand. And the vocals. Oh, the vocals. I’ve been in love with Dustin Kensrue’s voice for around 14 years but it seemed to reach a new level on Beggars and Major/Minor. It’s all gravelly and lovely. Blood On The Sand and Death From Above are my favourites for showcasing exactly what I mean.

They’re lyrically just as strong as ever too, I’ve been sat here for ages trying to pick some of my favourite examples but I can’t. They’re all just so so good. There’s such a wide variety as well, with some political songs such as Death From Above (which seems to be written from the perspective of a drone pilot) being a clear contrast to Stay With Me, the track directly before Death From Above and is more like a love song. Songs like Stay With Me show how incredible Thrice consistently are at constructing songs, there isn’t a single dull or out of place chorus on the whole album but the thought that goes into the writing is so evident in Stay With Me. They know when to keep it simple and when to play with time signatures of structures, and do so in other songs, but Stay With Me is fairly straightforward but not lacking in brilliance.

From watching the studio updates on YouTube, they said they were bringing in new music but trying to shine light on various eras of the band’s duration and it’s been so carefully done to make it seem either accidental or casual. In places it feels like an amalgamation of the best bits of the albums following The Artist In The Ambulance that you’d only really notice if you had them pointed out to you or if you’re a Thrice nerd like me.

The chorus for Death From Above brings about memories of Silhouette though I can’t place way (probably the time signature and general heaviness), and Whistleblower would fit perfectly on Vheissu, but by far the easiest one to point out is Salt And Shadow. It’s such a perfect album closer, reminiscent of some of the tracks from the Air chapter of The Alchemy Index. It almost feels like a lullaby, with the multi-layered vocals lending themselves to probably the best ‘light’ song Thrice have ever written. I also love the way Salt And Shadow ends, it’s a very subtle hark back to the “You’ve got to play it again” from The Beltsville Crucible from The Illusion Of Safety but it’s so expertly done that it’s easy to miss.

I had high expectations for To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, as I do with every album by every band I love, and I’m so pleased to say they’ve all been exceeded. I know a lot of other amazing albums have been released this year but TBEITBN has shot to the top, with most of the songs mentioned here being among the best songs I’ve heard for a long time.

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Blink 182 – Bored To Death

I know there are no doubt thousands of people writing in reaction to the new Blink 182 song but I’ve been waiting for this for a long time so I’m adding one more to the mix.

I’m not going to dissect the whole song and discuss each tiny element, and I’m also going to try to avoid direct comparisons between Tom DeLonge and Matt Skiba because, in all honesty, that kind of thing feels a bit lazy. However it has to be noted there are obvious differences that serve to highlight the influence each has had on the songwriting process. This is also Blink’s first time working with John Feldmann, so it’s hard to say which elements are present because of his and Skiba’s involvement, or simply down to Tom not being there.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of “spacey” guitar effects, not that I hated them on some of the more recent Blink releases but I find this song to be far more direct in terms of tone, and it’s also worth mentioning how quickly the vocals come in. The whole thing feels very condensed; almost all of Bored To Death has vocals in some form going on. The whoa-oh bits drag on a bit but I understand it. It gives Travis a time to do what he does best and drum the heck out of everything. There’s also a fair bit of whoa-ing on recent Alkaline Trio albums, so that could be Skiba’s influence shining through.

While we’re on the topic of Skiba, I’ve been a huge fan of Alkaline Trio (and their associated projects) for years, I think I bought From Here To Infirmary around 15 years ago. As soon as I found out he was going to be working with Mark and Travis on this album I was so excited, more excited than I probably was for Neighbourhoods and Dogs Eating Dogs. His introduction seems to have given Blink a new energy. Not necessarily better or worse, as people are so often drawn to say, just different. I’m also excited to see the impact it could have on bands who are either friends with Alkaline Trio, or involve Dan or Derek (The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon and Hot Water Music to name just three).

I’m kind of rambling and just throwing random thoughts into this so I’ll round it up before I get too heavily into it, as that’s something I’m trying to avoid. It’s 10 years since Mark and Travis released When Your Heart Stops Beating with +44 and Bored To Death sounds like a kind of natural progression from that. It has a certain urgency about it, Mark’s vocals are as good as they’ve been for years, Skiba’s vocals are probably as good as I’ve ever heard them and for the first time since Take Off Your Pants And Jacket it genuinely sounds like everyone involved is enjoying what they’re doing.

Anyway, I’m finishing this here. There’ll be a drawing based off the lyrics for Bored To Death coming soon but I wanted to upload this in the meantime.

Seeing Refused

This is over a month late but whatever.

The Shape Of Punk To Come is my favourite album of all time. I don’t say that lightly, I’m pretty much the biggest music snob I know (something I’m not proud of but can’t seem to break from). I first heard it when I was about 14 or 15 – around 2002, fuck you, I’m old – and immediately fell in love with everything Refused were about. It broke my heart when I found out they broke up several years prior to me discovering them. I’d never get to see them live. Sad faces everywhere.

Then! In 2011! There were rumours of a reunion! Followed by an announcement that they’d be performing at Sonisphere 2012! I already had tickets for Sonisphere and the news had my dick so hard my knees almost burst. Happy faces everywhere. Then, because at this stage fate was deciding to just fuck with me in the most awful of ways, Sonisphere was cancelled and Refused were added to the Download line up instead. The people with whom I was meant to be going to Sonisphere couldn’t make Download, so my wait to see Refused live continued. Sad faces again.

They did a couple of other festivals after that, which I couldn’t afford to attend, but last year they finally released a follow up to TSOPTC. As soon as I knew there was an album coming I hoped for a tour. Freedom was released last June and a tour was announced. We got tickets. Happy faces. I was half expecting it to be cancelled and more sad faces but nope. I finally saw them last weekend, after around 14 years of waiting. My brother didn’t even have to wait that long to see Guns N Roses (albeit not the ‘real’ Guns N Roses if you want to be a dickhead about it).

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The setlist was perfect, older tracks being combined sublimely with the songs from Freedom. They even found space for Coup d’État, Rather Be Dead and Life Support Addiction from Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent. As they closed with New Noise into Tannhäuser/Derivè, the atmosphere in the room was electric. From front to back, the whole room as getting into it either by singing along or by taking part in the pit with the oldest average age I’ve seen for a while.

Seeing a band live can sometimes ruin the magic or something like that, but The Shape Of Punk To Come is still my favourite album and Refused are still my favourite band. Happy happy faces.