Discussion in 'Music Forum' started by Henry, Sep 13, 2018.
*earlier that day*
“I don’t care for Earth.”
Beggars was my pick, but M/M is probably second at this point, so I'm bummed it only got one vote.
Voted for The Artist in the Ambulance, although that and Vheissu are practically tied.
Beggars but I wouldn't put a ton of distance between that and Vheissu
Alchemy Index III & IV followed by a tie between Beggars and Vheissu
This is tough. Beggars is probably their best but I think Artist might hold it's place as a personal favorite just because it came out when I was discovering the band and it has memories attached to it
I was doomed to be either the second vote cast for Major/Minor or the second vote cast for Illusion of Safety, haha.
Whoever you are who voted for those albums, LET'S BE FRENZ
For me, it's basically a four-way tie between those two, Vheissu, and Illusion. Listening through the band's whole discog last week solidified Beggars and M/m as near-equals in my book, and while I do genuinely think M/m just barely inches it out, there's part of me that also wants to continue to root for M/m, since it's become such an underdog. So, that said, it's awesome to see that you're a big fan, too! I always appreciate your musical opinions, especially when you and @Craig Manning get talking country music.
Can someone go in-depth about why M/M is their favorite Thrice album? I don't hate, I like a handful of songs on it... but it's not my cup of tea in the discography.
If I remember, I'll try to swing back around later tonight and share some of my thoughts on it. I appreciate your curiosity!
So, from Thrice's perspective, Major/Minor is very similar to Beggars. It's interesting that so many people seem to love Beggars and dislike M/m when the entire promotional narrative leading up to the latter's release was that the band had never made so small of a stylistic leap between albums. I personally see so many similarities between the two albums that I'm sometimes tempted to think that M/m is a rehash, even though my ultimate analysis is that M/m is marginally the stronger album. (For example, both albums have track 1's about human depravity, track 2's about marriage, track 3's about not seeing what's in front of you, etc.) But I certainly think it's a bigger and more muscular album. It's Thrice's first album with an outside producer since Vheissu, and the producer is actually the guy who engineered Vheissu. I'm also pretty sure that it's Thrice's first album since The Illusion of Safety to primarily be limited to the sounds of a four-piece rock band: two guitars, bass, and drums. TAITA was filled with strings and bells and whistles, Vheissu and Alchemy had such a large array of instruments, and Beggars was fairly keys-heavy. Outside of "Listen Through Me," which contains some piano (and is, in my opinion, M/m's weakest track), I think it's easy to point to M/m as the album that best represents Thrice's live show. Most of the album was even recorded live, and I think that authentic energy translates really well onto the record.
But whether or not you agree that M/m is a good-sounding or well-produced album ultimately doesn't matter if you don't like the songs. So, what do I like about the songs? On an instrumental level, I'd be shocked if anyone thought this album wasn't Riley's most impressive showcase. His work on nearly every song is out of this world, especially "Blinded" and "Call it in the Air." As for the guitar work, it's not nearly as showy, but it seems to me that they really learned to focus on parts and riffs that support the songs rather than distract. There's more of a focus on movements and dynamics and chord progressions that on Teppei's classic hammer-ons and riffs. For example, one of the coolest and most impressive riffs on the album comes during the pre-chorus of "Promises," but it's super easy to miss precisely because it sits so snugly beneath Dustin's vocals. And then the big, instrumental outros of "Promises" and "Blinded" are such a great appropriation of the types of ending they tried out on Beggars, such as "Circles" and "In Exile." I would understand the argument that Thrice seem to be copying themselves or repeating old tricks, especially when we as fans are so used to them being innovators, but I take this as Thrice developing a really cool musical tactic and reapplying it in new contexts.
Concerning the song structures, I think there's a surface-level-extent to which these songs seem like the band's most straightforward pre-hiatus compositions. They're not nearly as straightforward as the radio-ready, highly structured tracks on TBEITBN, but they're close -- in fact, M/m seems like a pretty logical stepping stone from Beggars to TBEITBN, in my opinion. Nevertheless, when you dig a little deeper, there are a lot more complex and interesting things going on in M/m's songs then first meets the eye. There are actually only TWO tracks that follow the traditional Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus structure, both of which appear near the end of the record: "Listen Through Me" and "Anthology." The preceding eight tracks are an adventurous bunch, bucking trends at every turn. A lot of them follow Thrice's favorite song structure, Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Outro, a structure that every song on Water and many songs on Beggars follow, but here, they follow this pattern in ways that are fairly new to the band. Take "Blur," for example. Sure, it goes from verse 1 to chorus 1 to verse 2, but that journey into the second verse takes you out of the album's heaviest track and throws you into a soft, subdued soundscape reminiscent of Vheissu's "Between the End and Where We Lie." Or there's "Call it in the Air," which takes an interesting twist on this structure by teasing the epic and heavy outro by using it as an instrumental interlude between the first chorus and second verse. Other songs decry normal song structures altogether. I'd be shocked if anyone could chart out the song structure of "Cataracts," which is filled with twists and turns and has almost nothing that repeats lyrically. The pieces of that song flow in and out of one another with surprising ease. Or then there's "Treading Paper," my favorite song, which starts with a soft verse, moves into a second verse before going into a grooving chorus, only to switch in a straight beat that then reimagines the first verse in driving fashion.
Moving on to Dustin's work, specifically, I think "Treading Paper" is one of his greatest sets of lyrics and one of his greatest vocal performances, and it's also the start of one of my favorite three-track-runs in music history, one that I think shows how cohesive the album is both musically and thematically. The huge build to the ending of "Treading" leads beautifully into the heavy guitars and time signature shifts of "Blur." Then you get nearly a minute of silence at the start of "Words in the Water," which allows for enough time to come off of "Blur" and prepare for the softness and beauty of "Words," which is absolutely stunning in how it moves through its 5/4 time signature, how it re-contextualizes the same melodies over different chord progressions to create new feelings, and how Dustin sings through a very difficult and poetic rhyme scheme, which he would later re-use on "Salt and Shadow." Those lyrics are seriously a work of art, and not only does the mention of "treading water" tie it into the images and themes of "Treading Paper," but one of its most triumphant lyrics, "I saw white and black reverse and a lifting of a curse," is a direct answer to the main line from "Blur": "Black and white blur into one." The ways these songs speak to each other is a perfect argument for how a good album is better than the sum of its parts.
I'll say one last thing -- I've seen a very interesting pattern that it tends to be Christians who really love M/m, and it tends to be non-Christians who don't love it. That might be too large of a generalization to make, but it's what I've seen. And there might be a very real extent to which I can relate to the lyrics of "Blinded" and "Disarmed" and others in a way that non-Christians can't. If M/m can be called a Christian rock album, then I'd argue that it's one of the best Christian rock albums of all time, but I also know that not even the members of Thrice (particularly the Breckenridge bros.) agreed with all these lyrics. I'd even bet that Dustin doesn't agree with many of them anymore. (In my opinion, the lyrics of "The Grey" and "Branch in the River," as well as potentially "Beyond the Pines," seem like a very specific attempt to ret-con the lyrics of "Words in the Water.") Nevertheless, I'm always interested in hearing what specifically makes these lyrics so hard to like from a non-Christian perspective, when so many of Thrice's lyrics over the years have come from a Christian perspective. (Even many fan favorites, from "Deadbolt" to "Of Dust and Nations" to "Come All You Weary," contain explicit quotes from the Bible.) But for me and for some other Christians I know who also love M/m, the lyrics of this album are true and insightful and inspiring and life-giving in a way that goes above and beyond any other album in Thrice's discography.
I know this is a lot, but thanks again for asking, thanks for reading, and even if your opinion about M/m never changes, I hope I've been able to provide some insight about why some people love Major/minor.
I like mm but not beggars
That vocal performance is sick. Like, seriously, he was sick when he tracked vocals for that song. And it's sick. Definitely my favorite on the record as well.
That's a hot, hot take, but I'm here for it!
Hey man, just wanted to say I appreciate the detailed post. I have it saved for a later read, but just wanted to let you know I appreciate the response.
You're super welcome :)