Thrice - Beggars
Record Label: Vagrant
Release Date: August 11, 2009
vagrant (plural vagrants)
1. A person without a home or job.
2. A wanderer.
Rarely, if ever, has a band's image so perfectly mirrored their label name as Thrice's chosen home (sic) of Vagrant. It encapsulates the band with utter clarity: wanderers, wizened by their travels and still determinedly scouring new sonic boundaries. In fact, looking back on their catalogue, they've explored pretty much all the caveats of being a vagrant; last year's "Come All You Weary" was a narrative from a benevolent, unjudgemental host, offering shelter to the exiled, and was easily the most comfortable the band sounded on their four-EP Alchemy Index opus. Even before that, prior album Vheissu was a revelation for the band and their audience, a far-cry from the pulsating post-hardcore of their early years, fuelled by philosophical, pseudo-Biblical narratives detailing the struggle of man and the awesome power of nature. Ramblings? Yes, and to the cynical, certainly a reason to disown them. But such is the life of a Beggar...
It's this anthropomorphic sensibility and sympathy that's become a fascination of the band, both their defining feature and their greatest asset. On Beggars, Thrice not only circumvent the searching, restless spirit of their previous efforts, but they strengthen it with their most cohesive, consistent album, equally scholarly and impassioned.
Beggars is, as you may expect, best experienced - at least once - in motion: bedroom listening won't get you very far. That's because it's the least propulsive of Thrice's albums; a good proportion of it is grounded, sometimes brimming with glistening, ponderous organ, as on "Circles," a gorgeous story of a midnight voyage to nowhere, or sometimes veiled with warped, delicate feedback, which covers "Wood & Wire." Though The Alchemy Index showed a band dabbling not always successfully in the concepts of Fire, Water, Earth and Air (it often felt too predictable and hackneyed), Beggars distills the sounds of the latter two into an album that's simultaneously earthbound and lofty: "In Exile" is mostly characterized by a deep bass twang and a drum metronome, but in its chorus, an electric guitar is used deftly to accentuate Kensrue's solemn street-corner soliloquy, a nomad with a "heart filled with songs of forever."
Speaking of soliloquys, Kensrue's lyrics find parallels now, more than ever, with the master of them, the great bard himself: opener "All the World Is Mad" is full of Thrice's usual bluster, the title sentiment distinctive, but what's less noticeable is its more original follow-on: "what vanity, our sad, lonely fires." Admittedly Kensrue is no stranger to literary grandstanding and cod-philosophy - see: Of Dust and Nations - but on Beggars he has an more convincingly contemplative musical backdrop to conduct. Even when he isn't exercising his right to Renaissance pedantry ("I choke my heart with Doublespeak," "Looking back I am undone"), Beggars makes for some memorable background music: the faster numbers feature Thrice's more typical shredding, though Teppei Terranishi never goes overboard with his solos like he used to.
Beggars has no place for over-indulgence, its humility seeping out of every chord, with the notable exception of opening combination "All the World is Mad," featuring some rather Matt Bellamy-esque crooning, and "The Weight," which vies mightily for the title of the band's best written song. On the face of it "The Weight" isn't really a huge departure from Vheissu's dramatic, classical conceits mixed with stacked, soaring guitars. But here, bassist Eddie Breckenridge's bass guitar locks into a funk-groove, brother Riley's snares and rimshots merging with it to give the impression of an uneasy tightrope-walk as Kensrue pledges a (rather unoriginal) marital allegiance. But just when the chorus appears to blow everything predictably skywards, Kensrue meets it with a line that almost fully compensates for the song's otherwise unexceptional lyrics:
‘And come what may, I won't abandon you or leave you behind
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment'
When it's echoed back over that tightrope verse later it's even more sumptuous and cathartic, yet it's the only real conceivable moment of defiant certainty on an album that's more given to the ruminous, bleak introspection of being lost: when Beggars rages, it appears to rage against our own iniquities as human beings rather than some personal grudge: "I don't wanna know who really pulls the strings, as long as it's not you or me" (Doublespeak). No example embodies this better than the title track finale: admittedly Kensrue sound a little naive, taking potshots at mankind's supposed accomplishments when compared to the powers outside of our control, but his words of a jaded, bedraggled nobody read like a cunning indictment of ourselves.
Like the sullen masterpiece of Brand New's Deja Entendu, Thrice find solace in the acknowledgement of our shared flaws on ‘Beggars', understanding that the only unity in our humanity is in our limitations, but that nothing is more monumental than the bonds we build with others. It is an album for dark nights of the soul, its sentiments well-worn with a sense of unplaceable nostalgia and, though rarely uplifting, it is subtly humbling from a band of vagrants. There's another equally fitting synonym I forgot to use up there:
3. (ornithology) A bird found outside it species' usual range
Hey man great review. The other review sounded lik e Thrice-fan boy review,
An 84 percent sounds more considerate an non biased. It's like if you dont say Beggars is perfect you dont know what ur saying is what it seems by people on here,I wish they stuck to what they did on Vheissu It really did not lack inensity .I think they held back alot with this one,
i hate the "oh he's just a fanboy, his review doesn't count, 93 is too high" mentality. it doesnt mean he was biased, it just means he thought this album was 9 percentage points better than this guy did.