A City By The Light Divided

“The Other Side of The Crash/Over And Out (Of Control),” the first song on Thursday’s fourth studio album, A City By The Light Divided, sets up the proceedings on levels both musical and metaphorical. As the song’s tempo rises, the rapid rocker breaks down into a patchwork of guitar textures and electronic drones; the aural equivalent of free-fall diving. More telling, though, is singer Geoff Rickly’s repetition of the line “Keep crashing this car/over and over” as his bandmates shore him with an ascending urgency that’s measured in equal parts rage and vibrancy. One can’t help wondering if Rickly is ambiguously referencing his own past–in this case, Thursday’s 2001 song “Understanding (In A Car Crash)”–as a way of telling us that, yes, everything in Thursday’s world has changed.
Produced by longtime Flaming Lips foil Dave Fridmann, City is filled with textural flourishes and vocal arrangements that further ram home the conviction of Rickly’s lyrics while giving his bandmates the confidence to create their own post-hardcore possibilities. Synth operator Andrew Everding is a crucial element in this mix this time; his electronic touches are crucial to the new atmospheres the band are generating. But City isn’t just the product of some hardcore kids becoming obsessed with Radiohead’s Kid A and contriving a statement around its ambiguities: Drummer Tucker Rule slams harder than he ever has; Tim Payne’s bass has a muscular presence not heard on previous discs, and the twin-guitar action of Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley is as propulsive as ever. Thursday aren’t afraid to bring the noise (“The Lovesong Writer”) or to reel themselves in for the sake of restraint (the U2-ish “Running From The Rain”).
As a singer and lyricist, Rickly has also matched his bandmates’ expectations: He’s still capable of putting himself way, way out there in performance (“At This Velocity”), as well as on paper. While he’s built his art solely around his life, it seems that the sonic avenues the band have traveled were a necessary element to emphasize his lyrics, as on “Counting 5-4-3-2-1” (“Burn this city down tonight/and leave it all behind”) or, on the other side of the emotional spectrum, the melancholy “Autumn Leaves Revisited” (“Everything, everything changes/I will be here when you die”).
Calling A City By The Light Divided a post-hardcore masterpiece is somewhat of a backhanded complement. It implies that Thursday made the bold journey as musicians–hell, as people–yet they’re forever tethered to a scene that, in many aspects, they’ve outgrown. City is a rare thing: a disc that reconciles a band’s need for discovery with the familiar characteristics that define them. If Thursday choose to break up tomorrow, sure, it’ll be sad–but it won’t be tragic. Nothing bad could come out of a record this great.

ROCKS LIKE:Deftones’White Pony, Radiohead’sAmnesiac, U2’sThe Unforgettable Fire