Album Review: Thrice – To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere

7/10

Album Review: Thrice - To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere

Post Hardcore Alternative Rockers Thrice are returning after a five year hiatus. Many fans had come to believe their announced hiatus had morphed into the demise of the band. The new release is the long awaited follow up to 2011’s Major and Minor. The band has always been a reliable source for impressive hard driving rock; this time around the band goes down the path of political protest with an album that is outspoken and incisive.

Thrice was formed in 1998 in Irvine, California where the members had grown up together forming the band in their late teens. Throughout their now almost two decades of existence the band had maintained their friendships and retained the same members; Dustin Kensrue lead vocals, rhythm guitar and keyboards, Teppei Teranishi on lead guitar and keyboards, brothers Eddie Breckenridge on bass and Riley Breckenridge on drums. The band has been grouped with the likes of Soundgarden and the Foo Fighters on the rock spectrum. Their music features distorted fast guitars, prominent lead guitars and complex time signatures; which were best illustrated on their second album 2002’s “The Illusion of Safety”. They have also dabbled in other genres with their “Alchemy Index Vols. I and II” showing a more techno flair.

For To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere the band brought in veteran producer Eric Palmquist to man the sound desk. The initial writing for the album was done over the internet in e mails to the various members of the band. The emails contained the embryonic scraps of songs that the band honed and edited. The long distance writing sessions were a first for the band and necessary as they no longer lived near each other but were dispersed through the country. The release took about 6-8 weeks to record. Lead vocalist Dustin Kensrue stated that,”The ultimate goal for this album was to put the nouns back in rock music”…” I endeavored to write a very noun filled recording.” What results on the release is a clarion call asking for listeners to become aware of what is going on in our world today and not be lulled into indifference by the alluring distractions in our modern age.

“To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere” kicks off the with the entrancing rock attack, Hurricane. The selection is filled with a heady explosion of rock goodness that Thrice is know for and fills an edgy rock deficit. It is the declaration of where the release is headed and a joyride of sorts. Thrice continues to hammer away with Blood in the Sand. The sonics of the song are filled with swirling old school crunchy guitars, crashing drums and a throbbing bass. The track is an examination of the mess Western Civilization’s diplomatic and military policies have made. It eviscerates the faulty thinking that suggests we can use the same ineffective approaches to problems. That thinking instead creates even worse problems,” We’ve got a plan for each mess we’re in.” The song is filled with justifiable angry as it delivers an excellent rocking protest song. Blood in the Sand is a rousting epic track.

The slinkier feeling The Window is a mid-tempo selection that shows off some great percussive chops. The song conveys a feeling of isolation and enforced self imprisonment in a distinctly paranoid manner, “It’s all inside your head.” Sonically the track is a definite change up from the first two songs. Wake Up is a real standout on the release. It is a call to action that is especially apt considering the political confusion of the present day; where it is all too easy to want to avert your eyes from the ugly circus that is taking place. But unlike a reality show where you can turn off the buffoonery, the current political scene’s outcomes have painful and long reaching repercussions. Kensrue identifies our tendency to procrastinate on paying attention by paraphrasing Proverbs 24:33 “Just a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of hands to what is what we tell ourselves.” There is a barely controlled seething anger that exists in the song like someone at the end of their patience. The relentless grinding rock feel of the track provides power and makes for an outstanding song. The track The Long Defeat continues the discussion started in Wake Up by questioning if things have already gone too far, “One step forward and two steps back”. It asks the existential question of if it is worth it to fight if the end is inevitable. At the end of the track the resounding answer is that you can’t give in no matter the stacked odds.

Seneca is a chiming guitar instrumental that gets its name and inspiration from Kensrue reading the works of the philosopher Seneca the Younger. It is a nice break in the action before the captivating Black Honey. On “Black Honey” there is this great reoccurring lyric that is the dominant theme of the track, “I keep swinging my hand through a swarm of bees because I want honey on my table”…”I can’t understand why they are stinging me.” The black honey of the song is crude oil. The lyrics call out the arrogance of Western civilization which is portrayed as cemented into self interest and shortsightedness which brings harm to all involved. This theme is exemplified by lyrics like, ”Don’t you understand, I deserve the best…I’ll do what I want…I’ll do it again till I get what I want.” This all unreels over a wide soundscape with a Lo Fi intro and a stark unforgiving accompaniment.

Stay With Me takes a break from politics delivering a straightforward power ballad. Then Trice moves back to their central political theme with Death from Above. The song portrays someone in the military questioning their participation in drone strikes in the Middle East. The protagonist is losing faith in his superiors and is sure he is killing innocents not just targets on a screen. The track displays very effectively that we stand the danger of becoming the very monsters we seek to eradicate. It is a pretty heavy theme, but deftly handled. Whistle-blower was inspired by Edward Snowden’s informing on the NSA. It is another powerful song that questions accepted notions of military/government intelligence gathering and authority, “You told me it was all for the greater good.” The song examines the human dilemma of conscience over conformity and having to make a moral decision to do what is right and face a high personal cost. The track has a significant amount of energy and angry all channeling through the guitars and percussion making for a scintillating song.

Salt and Shadow brings the album to a close with a serene and melancholy tune. The band utilized the reverse looping of the opener “Hurricane” and had a healthy dose of digital goodness. The song discusses the disconnect between people now that technology has place the world in our pockets. “Salt and Shadow” is a splendid way to end the release.

To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere offers an engaging thematic concept. It is effective in displaying the underlying dread that the everyman has about where we are heading on this small blue green ball we call Earth. It is a convincing display of mankind’s refusal to learn from our mistakes which dooms us to repeat them with ever worsening consequences. The hiatus Thrice took seems to have emboldened the band to pull no punches and tell it like it is in the only way they know how. The musical accompaniment allows the message go down smooth and displays a band who is far from weary.

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