Thursday’s ‘Full Collapse’ turns 20 – a look back on the pivotal post-hardcore classic
In honor of its 20th anniversary, this edition of 'In Defense of the Genre' looks back on 'Full Collapse,' the most pivotal album of the post-hardcore/emo explosion.
Like when grunge "broke" a decade earlier, emo was bound to explode in the early 2000s. The genre had been bubbling up all throughout the '90s and it was only a matter of time before the right moment came for it to boil over into the mainstream. That moment came in 2001, with emo breakthroughs like Dashboard Confessional's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most and Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American, but the album that really broken down the barrier between MTV and basement shows was Thursday's sophomore LP (and Victory Records debut) Full Collapse, released 20 years ago this Saturday (April 10).
Even with the genre on the rise, there wasn't a lot of expectation within the emo/post-hardcore scene that anyone was about to achieve real-deal fame, and the members of Thursday were no exception. "Full Collapse is totally innocent, and that’s why I think it’s beautiful," frontman Geoff Rickly told Noisey in 2014. "Just a bunch of kids pouring all their heart and dreams into one big record." That comes through in the music, and I think that's a big part of why Full Collapse resonated with so many people so quickly. It's so raw, so honest, and it felt like a breath of fresh air compared to most of what was happening within mainstream rock at the time. Like many great hardcore records before it, it was rooted in the long-running punk tradition of breaking down the barrier between band and audience, and making it clear that you really can do it too. Thursday became famous rock musicians, but they never acted like rock stars. Even when they became a major label band with a Top 10 album, it never felt like what Thursday was doing was unattainable. Full Collapse had its flaws, but those flaws only made it more human, and its scrappy imperfections are one of the many aspects of Full Collapse that make it feel timeless today.
SEE ALSO: Members of Touche Amore, Deafheaven, La Dispute, Pianos Become the Teeth, Saves The Day & more discuss Full Collapse.
Thursday came up in the New Brunswick, NJ DIY scene, following in the footsteps of bands like local screamo legends You and I (whose Tom Schlatter did the iconic screams on Full Collapse's "Cross Out The Eyes"), and they figured out how to combine DIY, basement-show-ready screamo with choruses catchy enough to land a video on MTV. There were a few other bands who combined screamo with accessible clean singing before Full Collapse (like their Victory labelmates Grade), but there weren't many, and Thursday did it in a way that still feels innovative today. After the success of Full Collapse, scream/singing bands came pouring in, many of them taking direct influence from Thursday. The major label and mainstream media frenzy happened so quickly that the entire era of popular, screamy early 2000s emo bands can start to blur, but Thursday deserve the credit for kicking that all off, and Full Collapse continues to age much more gracefully than a lot of the bands who came in their wake.
Full Collapse had thinner, rawer production than a lot of their followers, and maybe that was just due to a limited budget, but it's kept these songs sounding fresh as the super polished emo-pop stuff continues to go out of style. It's an album that's become influential not just within emo/post-hardcore but within underground rock in general, and that's because it was pulling from so many different things itself. It sounds informed by a variety of emo, punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, screamo, and metalcore bands, as well as goth/post-punk stuff like The Cure and Joy Division. By the mid 2000s, "emo" and "goth" became interchangeable in mainstream media, and that might not have happened if Thursday didn't name a song "Ian Curtis" half a decade earlier. Thursday brought together all these different styles of music in ways that felt truly innovative, and they made it their own. When you listen to the way "Understanding In A Car Crash" goes from a warm indie rock verse to an anthemic, screamo-infused chorus, or the way "Autobiography of a Nation" can be both chugging and ethereal, or how "A Hole in the World" does a 180 from from slow-paced emo to upbeat pop punk, it all sounds uniquely Thursday. It's an album that's clean and gorgeous just as often as it's heavy and aggressive and begging you to scream along. And for how musically ambitious it is, it still sounds like it was written by a band who would've been content to play basement shows for the rest of their lives.
Like the production and the musical variety, the lyrical content of Full Collapse has kept it timeless and relevant over the years too. So many of Thursday's peers and followers sounded similar on the surface but were writing entire albums about girls who didn't like them, coming off immature at best and misogynistic at worst. Full Collapse set its sights on bigger, realer issues. "Paris In Flames" tackled LGBTQ rights, and "A Hole in the World" included the lyric "love is love is love is love is love" which later became a slogan of pride within queer communities. "Autobiography of a Nation" took on America's history of oppression, "Concealer" dealt with domestic abuse, and "Understanding In a Car Crash" and "How Long Is The Night?" addressed dealing with the deaths of loved ones. Geoff did all this in a way that was poetic and metaphoric but still spoke directly to hundreds of thousands of people. A now-infamous negative Pitchfork review of Full Collapse ended with a suggestion that Thursday "lighten up a little," but Full Collapse resonated so much with so many people because listeners didn't need another lightened-up rock band. They needed a dead-serious rock band who were going to address the concerns they had about themselves and their friends and families and the world, and Thursday were that band.
For more on Full Collapse, we spoke to members of Touche Amore, Deafheaven, La Dispute, Pianos Become the Teeth, Saves The Day & more about the impact that the album had on them.
Geoff Rickly will also be appearing on The BrooklynVegan Show on Vans Channel 66 this Thursday (4/15) at 11 AM ET to discuss Full Collapse and the emo boom, followed by a set from musical guests Stay Inside. More info HERE.
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.