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Thick - "Would You Rather?" | Album Review


by Louis Marrone (@LouisJ_Marrone)

“Would you rather be a really awesome live band that not many people know or a really shitty recording band that everyone knows?” said Nikki Sisti, THICK’s frontwoman, in an interview with Sterogum. It’s quotes like this that embody what makes them such a unique band. They turn away from the idea that music is this capitalistic entity-- a pristine product that relies on perfection and age demographics.

Based in Brooklyn and consisting of Sisti on guitar, Kate Black on bass, and Shari Page on drums, the best way to describe them would be “classically punk”. They represent some of the genre’s basic values. They talk about being pissed off and smashing things. They have refreshingly unclean presence and rudimentary visual aesthetics. In today's world of overproduced, polished pop tracks, they’re a rare instance of untainted grime, the audio equivalent of an unzoned venue’s graffitied walls. Their sound, their presence, their personality all accumulates into this angsty broth, a punky alphabet soup that spells “FUCK YOU!”

THICK previously released their debut EP on Bandcamp in October 2016. Titled It’s Always Something... it could easily be the soundtrack to any college grad’s celebratory failure tour around the country — a preview warning of the shitstorm of adulthood that will soon follow. Through its recurring theme of trying and failing, the band talks about topics such as getting that job and buying the nice apartment because your parents wanted you to, all at the expense of financial stress and creative unfulfillment; or asking for the basic elements of any relationship, only for the other end to not hold up theirs. It’s a relatively depressing EP when you actually think about it, but you couldn’t quite tell at first from the beautifully patched together spirit and strong-willed energy that the album possessed.

Building on the rubble of It’s Always Something… their latest EP, Would You Rather? is an exercise in venting and escaping. It takes the fences and barriers they’re faced with, and obliterates them with an atom-bomb of pure aggression and unprocessed audio. In a sense, it’s a thematic sequel to Always Something. With these two projects, THICK asks the listener a simple question: Would you rather swallow what life shits down your throat, or puke it out and craft it into a weapon of mass destruction? It’s girl power on cocaine and admirably unhinged estrogen. THICK isn’t here for your bullshit. They’ve got shit to do, people to see and a maze of ceilings, walls and balls to bust.

Would You Rather? has four tracks, but it’s defining two are “Be Myself” and “Hot Bod.” “Be Myself” is an energetic anthem with a title that represents the songs central theme. It’s the EP’s thesis statement. Its experimentations with speed along with its raw execution encapsulates this rebellious edge. The song zig-zags between paces, starting off with a spastic bass riff, leading into a relatively “normal” instrumental, and quickly capping off with rapid finger movements and drum smacks. The lyrics lay out a stern manifesto against normality and gender roles. At one point during the song, they talk about how guys aren’t attracted to them. “Maybe they don't like my dirty hair/OR MY SCRAPED KNEES/I said, ‘Well what's the issue,/oh well, boy grab a tissue,’” they yell. Moments like this give the album a progressive and forward-thinking edge, a departure from punk’s rather infamously un-PC side. Yet at the same time, it’s also a complete embrace of what punk is in the first place. It’s the feminist version of Ian MacKaye saying he doesn’t buy into party culture. It’s the individualists equivalent of Serj Tankian screaming “FUCK THE SYSTEM!”

“Hot Bod” is the band’s take on lust and attraction. There’s a great humor to the track’s lyrics and tone (“So what's his name?/What?/And where's he from?/What?/Don't give a fuck/What.”) It’s a satisfying middle finger to the stereotypical douchebaggery that glazes punk’s male presence. Anyone who’s been to a DIY show has met the person they’re talking about: they have a name like Mike or Ian, they’re in a pop-punk band called “Waiting For Yesterday” or something. It’s a unique approach, and a seemingly relevant one in the era of the #MeToo movement; a nice slice of humble pie to the inflated male ego. It’s acknowledging their emotions and desires, but also pointing out that they have more than enough willpower to just keep walking. The song is like a thematically altered, less-conflicted version of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.”

Once again, the instrumentals on the song are aggressive. Shari Page is practically hammering the drums into your ear canal, working her way through all the meat, blood and gristle in the process. The vocals alternate between harmonization and abstract disorderly conduct. One minute they’re punk angels, and the next they’re screaming, trying to get their emotions across in the clearest way possible.

Sandwiched in with these two are the tracks “LYFE” and “Bleeding”, two very different, yet sort of similar tracks. “Bleeding” is one of the EP’s breezier cuts, whereas “LYFE” rips and smashes on through to the end. “Bleeding” talks about being pissed off with fake friends and condescending authority ("My boss is such a dick and/I just told them off/I think my friends all hate me/Maybe I should just get lost.”) “LYFE” is an acceptance of all of this, saying that “life's like an open-ended book/Ignore the bad to see the good,” and how you “can’t have the good without the hard.” However, where the two come together is in the idea of putting up with life's nonsense and finding ways to deal with it. It’s interesting to see the lyrically more aggressive track take the more evenly paced route, and more content one doing vice versa; it shreds, slams, and howls. It’s taking punk into the outbacks of irony.

Production wise, the three of them are on the same page, but it just so happens that each of their pages may be dog-eared and torn. The sound is tight. It’s well-put together and layered, but there is an atmosphere. The roughness has allowed for small holes in the fabric of the sound. You can feel the finger movements on the strings, the impact of the wooden sticks on the drums. You can smell the air of the recording studio.

The band also experiments with vocal and instrumental harmonization. “Be Myself”'s vocals alternate between just one of them singing, and the three of them chanting. “LYFE” takes this a step further. The entire song is sung in unison by the three. Throughout the album, when their vocals are layered together, the notes sound off and the timing has this subtle misalignment. Elements like this, again play into the album's rough DIY appeal.

Projects like this can only make one excited to see where a band like this can take punk. With the tense sociopolitical climate the west is going through, there lies the potential for punk’s revivalist period. If that’s the case, than THICK is the Jill Stein of the resistance (albeit far more successful). It’s an electroshock remedy to the Mark Hoppus’ and FIDLAR’s of the genre. The themes, the sounds, the heart and passion all add up to one of the most exhilarating and just plain fun punk albums to be released in a long while. Rebellion, moxie, artistic merit, and passion are just a few of the main spiritual themes of punk, and it’s hard to think of a band that currently has more of that in them than THICK.