For the last thirteen years, Thursday has been in a constant state of transition. Rising from New Brunswick, NJ, in the midst of a DIY basement culture revival, they seemed out of step with the traditional hardcore of their peers. Favoring jagged post-punk rhythms over metallic breakdowns and quoting from Neil Young and post-modern poet, Michael Palmer, instead of Henry Rollins and Noam Chomsky, the band always seemed at odds with the awkwardly applied label of “post-hardcore pioneers”. With this starting point, they set out wildly to find their place in the world: touring with everyone from the Cure to Cursive, continually expanding and refining their musical vocabulary. Finally, with No Devolución, the transition feels complete: Thursday have arrived at a place like home.
When Thursday (fronted by singer Geoff Rickly, guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla, bassist Tim Payne, drummer Tucker Rule and keyboardist Andrew Everding) released Full Collapse it defined a genre, signaled a change of the guard and started a backlash all at once. SPIN hailed the band as “The Next Big Thing" featuring Rickly on its cover in 2004. Kerrang praised the band with five K’s (highest marks) as being “in an entirely different class” than anything else at their Reading festival debut. Thursday’s first album for the majors, War All The Time, was a critical and commercial success but left the band feeling stuck and uninspired. Instead of embracing the musical niche that they had carved out, they took a far more daring route: shaking off trends in favor of experimentation, forging identity from content rather than style and turning Thursday into a churning engine of reinvention. The New York Times concluded, “They may not be rock stars, but by a kind of critical consensus they have emerged as the standard-bearers for their sound, the band considered most likely to survive the vagaries of rock trend-hopping.”
Throughout the band’s subsequent releases, a theme began to emerge: nothing is sacred. Calling on the legendary Flaming Lips’ producer, Dave Fridmann, the band delivered a pair of records that eschewed popular perception. 2006’s A City by the Light Divided saw Thursday producing heavily distorted lullabies and introspective dirges. 2009’s Common Existence showed them at their most explosive, adding atmosphere and precision to the urgency of their earlier records. In the midst of these two releases, Thursday teamed up for a split LP with venerated Japanese screamo band Envy, producing a seamless suite of tracks entitled, “As He Climbed a Dark Mountain, In Silence, An Absurd and Unrealistic Dream of Peace Appeared and Was Gone.” Though the various members have been known to spread themselves thin (Rule’s stints drumming for My Chemical Romance and Murphy’s Law— Rickly’s role as singer of Ink & Dagger for their 2010 reunion/benefit shows and his controversial United Nations project—and Steve Pedulla’s original score for the Indie film, Yeardley) Thursday always find themselves drawn together.
“There is literally nothing that I’ve ever experienced, that comes close to being in a room and watching the musicians in Thursday write together,” says Rickly, crediting the band’s chemistry on the steadiness and endurance of its line-up. “It’s too powerful and immediate for us to walk away from.”
It’s fitting then that the theme of No Devolución is undying devotion. “Writing music is like shining a light through a prism: it refracts, illuminates and magnifies your thoughts until they find clarity,” Rickly explains. “These twelve songs are the individual colors that came out when we shined the light of devotion through the prism of our band.” Adding, with a self-conscious laugh, “It sounds kind of ridiculous when you say it out loud but it’s what we’ve made and that’s just who we are.” Maybe this contains the key to Thursday’s unlikely success. They’re a band smart enough to know the risks of being sincere in a cynical, irony-filled world and take them anyway; a band that puts it all on the sleeve but can still take it on the chin.
None of this would matter if No Devolución wasn’t so relentlessly jaw-dropping. The opener, “Fast to the End” is Thursday’s crushing take on Swervedriver/Lush era shoe-gaze. Here the sleepy, disconnected-vocals-in-the-eye-of-a-maelstrom aren’t a function of style but substance: the story of a life spent disassociating from pain is skillfully underplayed by a band that has found a new weapon: subtlety. On the stunning second track, “No Answers”, Rickly poses a series of highly personal riddles over a throbbing keyboard line that owes as much to Daft Punk as it does the Cure. “A Darker Forest” describes a pair of lovers lost in a deep and unfamiliar forest, and plunges into the darkness to follow them in circles. This transitions into the record’s first single, “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart” a bittersweet story of irresistible attraction. Nearly every song on the record is a revelation for the band, repeatedly opening doorways to new rooms for the band to enter and then blow the roof off of.
“We wrote this record in seven days" Rickly recalls. “I think it’s the fastest we’ve ever done anything," he continues, “and it makes me wish we had approached all the other records this way.” Far from feeling rushed or half-baked, the record benefits from a sense of continual discovery. “We called Dave Fridmann a couple weeks before the first session to try and reschedule. He said, ‘No way, you guys will be fine.’ We were like ‘you don’t understand: we haven’t even played together yet since our last tour’ and he just said, ’you’ve been a band for thirteen years, it’s going to be great… Just don’t think so much.’ It turns out he was right.”
When Rickly saw the piece “Eye” by paper-cut installation artist, Mia Pearlman, he knew he had found the right person for the record cover. “I knew I wanted our record to sound like her art looked. I carried a picture of it with me the whole time we were writing the record.”
“This isn’t a hardcore record,” Rickly muses. “It’s not punk. But it’s a Thursday record and it might be our best.” No Devolución comes out ten years after Thursday’s landmark album, Full Collapse, and provides a powerful touchstone for the future of the band.