Four years have passed since Orange County rockers, Thrice, temporarily bowed out on a farewell tour of the US. At the time it was stressed by Dustin Kensrue in an open letter to their fans that “Thrice is not breaking up” and that they’d simply be “taking a break from being a full-time band”. It was a decision that, whilst clearly disappointing, was understandable with signs of burnout starting to creep through. Young families had to take precedent over months of touring; the four-piece had been on the album-tour cycle for around a decade straight at this point, something had to give.
During the hiatus, Kensrue focussed on his work with Mars Hill Church and a solo career whilst Teppei Teranishi, the group’s lead guitarist, started a leather-based business. Eddie Breckenridge kept busy with his custom woodwork shop whilst his brother, drummer Riley, worked as a roadie for Weezer and Jimmy Eat World. It was starting to look like their lives had moved on until Teranishi and Kensrue went to a show of their friends in Brand New.
That Brand New show was to be the catalyst for the reformation, 2015 tour dates and, ultimately, ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ as the band realised they could do things on their own terms, in manageable stints. We should be extra thankful that Kensrue and Teranishi went along that night because the long term result of ‘TBEITBN’ finds Thrice totally revitalised.
From the pounding opening of ‘Hurricane’ it’s clear that the band have their mojo back and this time around there’s choruses aplenty. There’s a directness about the record as a whole as they touch on various sounds from their astoundingly diverse back catalogue. The main points of reference are undoubtedly the quartet’s mid-to-late noughties work; large dollops of ‘Vheissu’ with sprinklings of ‘The Alchemy Index’ and ‘Beggars’. The Window is a fine example of this as the Breckenridge brothers provide the fuzzy groove for a dirty sounding guitar line that nods to their Radiohead influences; think Thrice‘s energy mixed with ‘I Might Be Wrong’ from ‘Amnesiac’ and you’ll be along the right lines.
The direct approach is also true of the lyrical content. A lot was made of the religious undertones of Kensrue‘s lyrics during their hiatus, especially as fans learned of his role as a church pastor but, in truth, that has always been prominent across their career – the references were there but they were often open to interpretation. This time, though, Kensrue veers away from faith and religion almost entirely; instead there’s a heavy socio-politcial edge which makes the record’s angrier moments all-the-more powerful. ‘Blood on the Sand’ openly stands up against prejudice and racism whilst ‘Death from Above’ focuses on a drone operator that is disenchanted and guilt-ridden from being forced to see people as “just targets on a screen” and repeatedly “drop death out of the sky“. There’s very little ambiguity here as Kensrue explicitly conveys a clear distaste for questionable actions.
Other highlights on the record include the shift in dynamic on ‘The Long Defeat’ as a towering chorus fades out and draws to an ambient and atmospheric close whilst second single, ‘Black Honey’, again displays Thrice‘s mastery of shifting between quiet and loud with anthemic results.
As for the negatives, there aren’t many. It could be argued ‘Stay with Me’ is the weak link on the album but it does provide a lighter, melodic breather amongst the melancholy and works within the context of the piece. There is also a couple of moments were the band borrow from their own work with ‘The Whistleblower’ being the main case in point as it bears a noticeable resemblance to ‘Of Dust and Nations’ at first and ends with a similiar riff to that of another ‘Vheissu’ cut in ‘Hold Fast Hope’. These are only minor grumbles though and will only really register with long-time fans of the band.
The main story here is not only that we have one of the genre’s leading lights back in action, it’s that we have them back to being as hungry and as vital as they were at their peak through them doing things on their own terms. It clearly works for them; after all, as ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ proves, less is often more. If a little less touring results in albums like this, there can be no cause for complaining.
‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ is out now via Vagrant Records.
This Thrice article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit Jonathan Weiner