Back in 2005, Thrice ripped up their own rule book and created Vheissu, a career defining release that sounded nothing like they’ve ever done. Sure, it still had a penchant for rock riffs and the passion they’d always been known for, but with these riffs came mellotrons, pianos and a new-found expansive melodic sensibility. The Alchemy Index, four EPs covering each element in totally different musical landscapes including rock, electronica, country and folk followed a few years later, and that again stretched the band’s creativity to a level most Thrice fans couldn’t have imagined. Now, we have Beggars, a release completely at odds with the band’s recent output. There’s no lush instrumentation here, just a collection of stripped down, soulful, oddly lightweight songs. It’s also the weakest thing Thrice have released in a long time.
Given the expanding nature of Thrice’s music since the middle part of this decade, it’s totally understandable that there would eventually have to be a reaction to it. Beggars is the opposite of its recent forefathers in that even its loud numbers are pretty restrained. There’s barely any distortion in the guitars, and frontman Dustin Kensrue’s vocals are rarely close to straining themselves. This wouldn’t be a problem if the songs on offer were absorbing affairs, but they’re just not. Mostly everything on Beggars lacks a memorable melody, riff or passage to really get you interested or hooked. Doublespeak, At The Last and The Weight are some of the louder songs on the album, but are devoid of anything to really interest, let alone excite.
Thrice are still capable of writing some brilliant tunes, and the evidence is all over Circles. A quiet, slow burner of a song building to the kind of emotional crescendo the band do so well, it’s the album’s highlight, but is followed by another plodding song that doesn’t get anywhere near interesting territory.
Don’t get me wrong, Beggars is hardly bad, but considering what came before it, it’s a let down. In an attempt to move away from previous efforts, it feels like Thrice have taken a very deliberate side step almost to see what would happen. Beggars doesn’t feel as focussed as The Alchemy Index or Vheissu, and fails to really grab the listener, which is something they haven’t had a problem with for a long time. There’s no pining for the days of The Artist In The Ambulance here, just a desire for Thrice to expand upon their last few years of work as opposed to stripping things away from it. Then again, brilliant bands are allowed to miss the mark from time to time.