Thrice’s history of reinventing itself and continually pushing boundaries has been well-documented many other places, so I’ll spare you from the typical review intro stuff. “Major/Minor,” the band’s eighth studio album (and fourth Vagrant Records release) finds the band hitting what can only be considered a comfort zone, doing less in the way of expanding their sound and more in the way of deepening it, adding layer upon layer of sound to what was an already broad foundation.
“Major/Minor” begins with “Yellow Belly,” which kick the album off with a Black Keys style dirty blues riff before morphing into an alt-rock track. The repeated return to the intro riff saves the song from plunging too deep into nu-metal waters. “Promises” is a big sounding alternative rock song. It plays like an interesting mix of post-“Badmotorfinger” Soundgarden’s rhythm section and the melodic guitar and vocals of more recent U2, while “Blinded” and “Blur” wouldn’t sound out of place on any of Incubus’ last couple of less rap-funk, more atmospheric rock albums. The latter track features great dynamic loud/soft/loud changes and one of the album’s heaviest riffs over frontman Dustin Kensrue’s brooding, introspective lyrics: “why does this keep happening/ I try to close my eyes but I can’t blink…black and white blur into one.”
“Call It In The Air” and “Words In The Water” are the album’s most cinematic, or perhaps operatic tracks, not unlike recent Thursday material. “WITW” is perhaps the best representation of Thrice’s new direction, with guitars that weave from delicate to heavy to delicate again amid great changes in dynamic. “Disarmed” sounds like what may have become of Radiohead had they not stumbled into pharmaceutical-grade psychotropics and MIDI programming in the late ‘90s.
A couple of the album’s tracks are near misses. “Listen Through Me,” while perhaps being the most introspective and outward (along with “Words In The Water”) in its reflection of Kensrue’s beliefs is a little too mid-tempo and formulaic in its modern rockiness to really inspire me as a listener. “Anthology” starts out on the right track with the swirling, clean guitar intro, but the more distorted riff that follows is a little (or a lot, frankly) too reminiscent of a Creed track for my liking.
Kensrue’s vocals, as you might expect, are as integral to the sound of “Major/Minor” as the myriad guitar sounds in the spectrum (from chunky balls-out rock chords to plucked, atmospheric tones) and the lock-tight Breckenridge brother rhythm section. Each instrument spends time in the the driver’s seat, moving the ship in what seems like several different directions in the same song. Even Kensrue’s voice plays the role of chameleon, sounding different depending on the part of the song, at times echoing equal parts Geoff Rickly (Thursday), Brandon Boyd, Chris Cornell, Christopher Hall (Stabbing Westward) and at times almost Bono or Chris Martin (that sucking sound you hear is any hope of maintaining some semblance of street cred being washed away).
While it may not necessarily inspire legions of new Thrice fans, “Major/Minor” is most certainly going to please fans of at least the last couple of album, and certainly won’t be as polarizing as the constant changing of directions can tend to be. In actuality, it is probably one of the band’s more solid releases when listened to start-to-finish.