Much has been made of Thrice’s recently announced reunion performances at several prominent punk and hardcore festivals in 2015- including New Jersey’s own Skate and Surf Festival, where they will perform next month- and with good reason. Thrice is a hugely influential post-hardcore band whose melodic hardcore sound has influenced so many musicians in the past 15 years.
But perhaps not as much is being said about what the implications of Thrice’s reunion has had and will continue to have on the actual members of the Thrice. Guitarist Teppei Teranishi has largely remained out of the public eye since the band’s 2012 farewell tour- producing leather handbags and other consumer products, drummer Riley Breckenridge has formed a baseball-themed grindcore band Puig Destroyer as well as hosting the prominent baseball podcast Productive Outs PRODcast, while his brother/bassist Eddie Breckenridge has recently joined Angels and Airwaves as a touring member. Vocalist Dustin Kensrue has joined and left Mars Hill Church, moved back to Southern California, and released another EP with his side project, The Modern Post. I state what the individual members of Thrice have been up to since the band’s farewell tour not to comment on each member’s successes relative to another, but to point out that they will always be judged more in the public eye for what they’ve done collectively under the moniker of Thrice than they have done individually.
But these snapshot accomplishments in each member’s personal and professional careers do hold significance. They are representative of where each member was at a certain time in their lives. The art that comes from these moments is representative of the release of individual creative energy that has also allowed Thrice to accomplish everything they have.
With that said, Dustin Kensrue’s new solo record, Carry The Fire, is perhaps the most important release of his career to date. Although his solo debut Please Come Home was released in January of 2007, more than eight years ago, Carry The Fire represents the beginning of a creative renaissance for Kensrue. It finds him honing his songwriting talents to even greater degrees, while crafting some of the most rich and delicate sonic landscapes he has ever achieved.
Take for instance, the album’s clear and prominent stand out track, “There’s Something Dark,” among the best tracks Kensrue has ever written. “There’s Something Dark” builds its brooding nature with just a simple acoustic guitar and piano (and a light flittering guitar line) before the somber song is punctuated with a harmonica solo that perfectly encapsulates the thematic content of the song without having to say a single word.
While Carry The Fire won’t be particularly reminiscent musically to Thrice’s fans musically, Kensrue’s introspective pontification and existentialism still remain the primary focus here, even as the indie-folk musicianship seeps through every aspect of the recording.
That’s not to say this album is entirely folk influenced. The quick strums and unrelenting pace of “In The Darkness” recall Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A, and Kensrue’s soaring bridge does nothing to dissuade this comparison. Now I’m standing here, beneath the green abyss,” he sings, and even his vocal inflection recalls The Boss’ own grinning delivery of his classic escapism anthems. In fact, it even seems Kensrue may have taken some influence from another of Springsteen’s classic albums, as many of Carry The Fire’s tracks seem to balance the uplifting with the dark and brooding aspects of the American experience in much the same way that Springsteen’s own Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad tackle this conceit.
“In The Darkness” is followed up by the long-time live staple and fan favorite “Of Crows and Crowns” which many Thrice fans were hoping would be on Thrice’s follow-up to Major/Minor. While the song retains Kensrue’s breath-taking songwriting ability, the simplicity of the song’s composition could’ve perhaps been benefitted by a more complex string arrangement to bring out the uplifting nature of the track’s refrain. As it stands, the simple piano and acoustic guitar still allow “Of Crows and Crowns” the space to breathe and leave an indelible mark on Carry The Fire.
There is so much to be said about what Carry The Fire means to Thrice’s impending reunion. Perhaps most importantly, however, it appears that despite, or perhaps because of, the turmoil in Kensrue’s professional career in the past few years, he has been creatively reinvigorated. Carry The Fire is perhaps Kensrue’s most lively and intellectually curious songwriting he’s released since The Alchemy Index years ago. If the rest of the members of Thrice come back to the band this year feeling as alive as Kensrue sounds here, something special is truly in store.