2009 Top 10: #1 – Thursday – “Common Existence”

Sorry for the lack of content this week. I have some VERY exciting things to post in the next 2-3 days, but before that I thought I’d post my review of my album of the year for 2009. Enjoy:

Thursday are kind of “my band”. Everyone has one – Thursday are mine. In the movie of my life, Thursday would feature heavily in the soundtrack… The movie would probably be rubbish but the music would be spectacular.

Anyway, I digress. This year Thursday released their 5th studio album, “Common Existence”. After various label disasters and numerous near-breakups the band found themselves on independent punk stalwart Epitaph and seemed rejuvenated by the move. The rejuvenation is apparent about half a second into the first track, as Resuscitation of a Dead Man bursts from the speakers with an urgency rarely heard from Thursday (apart from the brilliant Dead Songs and At This Velocity) on their previous two releases. Tim Mcilraith from Rise Against adds guest vocals, and the whole thing sounds as if the band is passionate again.

The passion and sense of purpose is perhaps most evident on the utterly amazing Friends In The Armed Forces, a direct and scathing comment on right wing America’s seemingly insatiable appetite for war and the “with us or against us” mentality. Instead of focussing solely on the political, however, Thursday focus on the personal side of the issue much like Green Day did with such success on American Idiot.  “Another folded flag to a mourning mother/he was an army of one that defined another/and in the fold of the body bag she’ll find a cheque for a hundred grand/she’s got friends in the armed forces/now we know what a soldier costs/what’s the cost to the rest of us?”.

Rickly’s greatest lyrical strength has always been his ability to give voice to universal discontent and restlessness. Lines like “everything we build it falls apart, and the architects abandon us” from Last Call pepper the record and, like all great punk rock, make the listener feel as if they’re part of something bigger than themselves. In fact in pre-release interviews Rickly said that the title of the record was intended to convey just that – that the themes on the record were personal, but universal at the same time. If that was the intention the band has clearly succeeded.

In terms of the record’s sound, Common Existence is probably the heaviest record Thursday have released. The screaming that was so much a part of Full Collapse and War All The Time has almost disappeared now but the instrumentation on Common Existence is relentless. Producer Dave Fridmann creates a huge wall of sound while managing to ensure that, unlike his approach to Thursday’s last full-length A City By The Light Divided, the sound is never muddy or indistinct. Something which has always set Thursday apart from the pack is their ability to use tempo and dynamic shifts to enhance the emotion of a song, and nothing has changed in this respect on Common Existence. The band remains one step ahead of the hundreds of bands they have influenced over the past 10 years.

Finally, no review of Common Existence would be complete without a mention of the brilliant Subway Funeral. Rickly sings of loss in such a way as to somehow make the theme completely without cliché, and even on the 30th listen the climax of the song is absolutely thrilling, tingles up the spine stuff. It is one of the finest moments in an amazing career.

Still sounding every bit as fresh as it did 12 months ago when it was released, Common Existence might just be the best thing Thursday have ever released. And believe me when I say that praise comes no higher than that.

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