On Monday night, you get to see a Thursday that almost didn’t happen.
At Jillian’s, the New Jersey outfit named Thursday is bringing their latest version of chords, crashes and catharsis to the Atlas Club. The show is associated with the “Shirts for a Cure Tour” (look around for the customized T-shirts, or go check www.shirtsforacure.com for more info). The entire lineup for this all-ages show is solid, with support acts Mewithoutyou, We’re All Broken and especially Minus the Bear (who deserve to be famous for more than their creative song titles, but how can you ignore “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister”?). These are all acts that have smarts and restlessness, and they aren’t afraid to use either to go find what lies beyond the far reaches of trends like emocore.
The presence of Thursday is the biggest draw. This sextet, which since the late ’90s put its all into wandering festivals (like Warped Tour) and anywhere else they could get serious stage time, pretty much crashed by the time they’d hopped onto multiple tours to promote 2003’s War All the Time. There were some indications that this was a collective exhaustion, but singer Geoff Rickly was diagnosed with epilepsy, and the need was clear to step back from the insane schedule.
What emerged from last year’s break is captured on A City Divided By Light, newly out on Island. This is a band ready to get more adventurous. They can reinvent their own brand of chaos (when’s the last time a lead track was a medley highlighted by the roaring rise of an electric bass guitar line?). They can also pick up new and pointed arrangement touches that you wouldn’t expect: Disciplined glock holds together “Telegraph Avenue Kiss,” and “Into the Blinding Light” finds its ending through a stepwise ascending guitar lick that could’ve come from the Rush catalog. The quick anthemic “Counting 5-4-3-2-1” wears a sleeveful of early Pearl Jam, but Rickly’s got too much of his own inspiration to throw away time milking individual influences (even though many of the band’s new directions throw him closer to Robert Smith and The Cure, who Thursday toured with a couple years back). Maybe the best track on this very solid disc is “The Lovesong Writer,” which seriously wrestles with the possibilities of what a guitar-heavy band can bring to bear working in waltz time in this day and age.
No need to worry that the disc went prog-heavy or that this is just a loud drive through the dry terrain of mathrock. Production by Dave Fridmann, who delivered The Flaming Lips’ masterpiece The Soft Bulletin, doesn’t interfere with opportunities for full-throttle screaming over a drum breakdown. But Rickly will go so far as to let us glimpse a Gordian knot of feelings when he mourns the tossing-off of faith (“Sugar in the Sacrament”), and it’s good that he and his band had an experienced hand to capture all they had to say as they reconvened.
There are, naturally, many levels of musical soul-baring. The low grade is hyperbole or the deeply metaphorical, the guarding of the profoundly personal. There is, as well, a mixture of the aforementioned with a bit of measured earnestness, which is typically where most of the mainstream listening public gets its fix. Then there is the painfully self-aware, the gritty true tales of things that make us most uncomfortable: death and loss. It is here where Jon Ashley lives and sings.
Damaged Goods is the first solo album from Ashley, frontman for The Shooting Gallery. Along with his backing band, The Little Triggers, Ashley tears through 11 gut-kicking tunes that chronicle a desperate, ugly personal period that’s as real life as getting mugged or crashing your car. As he reveals in surprisingly forthright liner notes, Ashley’s life of late has been a cosmic “fuck you” to everything he holds dear: family tragedy of a near-Shakespearian degree; the loss of a serious girlfriend; having to leave school because of empty pockets.
Ashley has the uncanny ability to make all of this listenable and familiar, even to those of us who could never claim a fourth of the soul that seems to drip from his gravelly throat over turns of phrase that rival even the most revered acoustic guitar-slinging troubadours of hard country that stand before him. His CD release show is Friday. —Stephen George
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