Thrice is one of those bands whose albums fans will always find excellent. If they play melodic hardcore, it’s excellent. If they ditch their major label and embark on a project about the four elements, it’s excellent. If they go for a blatant pop move by incorporating balladry and get immensely popular off a song that appears on the soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, guess what? It’s their best album to date.
So the least surprising thing about Major/Minor, Thrice’s seventh album, is that it’s excellent. At this point, longtime fans should expect the quintet to be a well-oiled machine that knows exactly what and how to play. I said during my review for the new Bayside LP that I really liked the kind of music the group played, but I would have liked to hear it played… not terribly. Now, I have found that sound in the post-hardcore genre; the crunch of Thursday, the clean scree of La Dispute and the grit of Thrice. All over Major/Minor, the group is its own cohesive rhythm section, pushing and pulling upon itself on tracks like “Call It in the Air” and “Cataracts” for a truly elastic listening experience.
In fact, Major/Minor’s consistency is its only significant limitation. The album is a collection of excellent tunes with no distinct theme or direction. Singer Dustin Kensrue’s lyrics convey this approach. Gone is the political sloganeering present on 2009’s Beggars and 2005’s Vheissu. Here, Kensrue seems to be singing to a person as opposed to a crowd, discussing interpersonal relationships as opposed to the state of the union. Some fans will tell you that’s a lateral pass from a band that, up to the new decade, was quite unpredictable, but Kensrue’s singing talent more than makes up for those shortcomings. Kensrue settles into a coarse howl on the album that is just as powerful on bombastic numbers like “Call It in the Air” as it is on mid-tempo tracks like album highlight “Anthology” and ballad “Words in the Water.” Its tone makes me think of sand rushing by your legs as the water comes in while standing on the beach; much like the band itself, a perfect blend of aggression and tenderness.
So, yes, with Major/Minor, we don’t learn anything new about Thrice. But, what it does do is solidify what we already know: That (1) Thrice are bona fide professionals at this stuff, (2) They have to be in at least the top twenty most consistent hard rock groups of all time, and (3) That we should be glad they haven’t waned so much as a little creatively in the past decade, considering how hard rock has become bizarrely in threat of extinction. I’m sure you’ve heard me say countless times that innovation always trumps complacency, but this is different. This is knowing your strengths and playing off them. Show me a man who doesn’t appreciate that and I’ll show you a man with no ears.