2007, Music

The Alchemy Index: Volume III and Volume IV – Air and Earth (2007) by Thrice

Unfortunately “Volume III” takes the brief moments of Volume II that alluded to a sort of Post Grunge / “Modern” rock style and takes them to the logical conclusion. I guess some people would consider these songs “stronger” – they’re certainly catchier – but why neuter what your band does well? At least the rhythm section is way better than your standard everyday rock band.

It’s certainly a bit of a departure from what I thought this band sounded like, and I guess that’s fine if you like ballads and stuff. I feel like I’m being too hard on it. This is certainly more creative than the sounds of it suggests it would be. So that’s something. And I guess it’s a reasonably cohesive whole.

Volume IV is, to me, where the idea of disparate EPs falls apart. And where I really start wondering why not release just a conventional double album? (Or, better yet, why not edit yourselves further and created a one disc record?)

The first song of the last record sounds like you’re getting into a folk thing – albeit filtered through a 21st century rock fan’s concept of what folk sounds like, i.e. not very traditional. Frankly it’s more like “acoustic rock.” And it’s hard to differentiate it that much from Volume III, beyond obvious volume (yuk yuk yuk) differences. I kept wanting the Post Hardcore band to kick in.

The second track feels like it’s going for more of a Tom Waits-in-the-70s vibe, albeit with a shittier piano, and backing vocals – and lacking the distinct lead vocal, obviously. The song is among their best (that I’ve heard), but that’s not really the point. It adds to the “Odds and Ends” feel of this volume.

By the third track “the acoustic rock” has resumed, albeit a sort of artier version this time. It’s another strong song. But it sounds like the kind of thing that would be on a “Hey, look we’ve gone acoustic for a moment” EP like bands used to do.

The fourth track is another piano-led number, but with a different feel (can’t place it right now), that same shitty piano, and this time what sounds like a digital choir.

The fifth track is exemplary of the kind of “folk” music filtered through the lens of the last few decades of alternative rock. It’s obvious they are trying for a folk feel (based on the lyrics), but the music and the instruments chosen to perform it say “rock” – and, also, blues rock, but again blues rock by musicians who don’t really get the blues.

And the last track is just ruined by the gang vocals (and some shitty lyrics).

Why do I harp on all of this? Well, instead of forcing these themed “EPs” which aren’t that unified, why not just take the best songs you recorded and release a record? And if you want a loose concept, sure, insist on it in the liner notes. Whatever. But is this elaborate presentation necessary? And was there enough quality to sustain it? I don’t think so.


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