Thursday's 'War All The Time' hits harder than ever at the TLA - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

The fall of 2003 was a strange time to be a young person, particularly in the northeastern United States. Everything around you felt still on edge from the 9-11 attacks two years prior. The military-industrial complex was six months deep in a bad-idea war launched on false pretenses that probably had a direct impact on someone you knew. Add to that the economic and emotional insecurity of adolescence, or post-adolescence, or the early adulthood crash. The world was an infuriating, tragic, and frightening place at the dawn of the millennium, it didn’t feel like there was a lot you could practically do about it as a teen to twentysomething, and sometimes you just needed to scream. War All The Time, the third album and major label debut from New Jersey punk band Thursday, allowed young people the country around the space to do so.

The winter of 2024 is also (imagines this 40-something writer) a strange time to be a young person in America. Economics are even less secure, capitalism has the country massively out of whack, the environment is burning, hateful rhetoric and legislative oppression are the political norm, even the supposed good guys in government are offering tacit (or sometimes explicit) support of an international power punching down on the less powerful. It’s still an infuriating, tragic, and frightening world. That’s why War All The Time still hits so hard, and that’s also why when Thursday’s anniversary tour came to the TLA this week, it played to a diverse crowd — Gen X-ers and elder millennials in craft brew hoodies who frequented Thursday gigs back in the day, as well as Gen Z folks sporting trans rights and Black Lives Matter pins, likely seeing them for the first time.

Thursday | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Before playing the album’s breakout hit “Signals Over The Air,” frontperson Geoff Rickley let the room know what side of history this band stood on: “This song goes out to the human rights of everyone in this room. This song is for reproductive health care and reproductive justice for every single person in this room tonight. This song is for the right of every single person in this room tonight to identify with whatever sex, sexuality, or gender you see fit.”

These sorts of political themes are addressed in snapshots across the album, along with a fair amount of war imagery reflecting the time it was made — “Marches and Maneuvers,” “This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb.” But the war it’s really addressing wasn’t Iraq, but more the war within, the mind-numbing monotony of the corporate American dream (the dynamic opening of “For The Workforce Drowning”), the ennui and despair of those who don’t choose that path (the title track which, with its direct setting in New Jersey, rallied the TLA crowd into cathartic screams).

Thursday | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Rickley and his bandmates have been through a lot since forming Thursday as Garden State teens; label drama, success, addictions, slumps, a breakup. They also made music that connected deeply with listeners, and with all core members in place for this run — guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla, bassist Tim Payne, drummer Tucker Rule — they sounded locked-in and massive.

Rickley told the crowd that when War came out in September of 2003, they didn’t play a lot of its songs live. “We thought ‘this is too fucked up, it’s too hard to follow. People won’t like it.” Doing the record in full meant many first times playing several of its cuts, like the aforementioned “Marches,” which roared from the rafters. Rickley also shared Philly memories (“this city gave me one of my favorite hardcore bands of all time, Ink and Dagger”) and formitive TLA memories (“I saw Entombed play their Wolverine Blues tour here, and had to take a train from Jersey, which meant I had to leave three songs into the set, and it was still incredible”).

Thursday | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s clearly a space that holds a special place in this band’s heart, and Rickley seemed overjoyed to return at a moment when, while the world may still be chaotic, the bandmates are more self-assured. “When we were breaking up, we played one of our last shows here,” he said. “It’s so good to be back here now in such a better place.”

After the album playback, the band closed out the night on the fan favorite “Jet Black New Year” — a companion song to War‘s closing track “Tomorrow I’ll Be You” — plus an encore of back-catalog cuts “Cross Out The Eyes,” “Understanding In A Car Crash,” and “Turnpike Divides,” ending on a note that saw a glimmer of hope amid the despair. Thursday’s War All The Time anniversary tour concludes Saturday night, February 24th, with a show at New York City’s Irving Plaza; information and tickets can be found here.

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