Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Album Review: 5 Years Behind by THICK (by Emma Prew)

The COVID-19 lockdown has me listening to and needing new music now more than ever. I can’t remember exactly when I came across Brooklyn, New York, trio THICK but I think it was via the ‘fans also like’ section of Spotify. I put their album, 5 Years Behind, on my current listening playlist (New For Prew) and proceeded to listen to various songs from it at random along with a load of other new tunes. Before long I was hooked on their passionately aggressive yet catchy songs and had started to listen to the album – as it should be listened to – front to back. It was only when I ordered the vinyl (from Specialist Subject Records), and looked at the back of the sleeve when it had arrived, that I discovered 5 Years Behind is in fact released by the iconic Epitaph Records.

THICK are Nikki Sisti (vocals and guitar), Kate Black (vocals and bass) and Shari Page (vocals and drums). 5 Years Behind was released on the 6th of March and, if you aren’t already familiar with it, this is why I think you should check it out!

The album begins with its title track, 5 Years Behind. Kicking off with a drum roll, a fuzzy bass line and an indie punk meet garage rock style guitar riff, the song certainly feels like an opening track or introduction to both the album and the band. The verses are sung at a fast pace while the chorus is slower and feels almost dreamlike as THICK sing about feeling overwhelmed by all that life throws at them. The outro, which sees the band repeating the line ‘I keep on trying’, will no doubt feel relatable to many listeners – myself included. The song slowly fades out into track number two, Sleeping Through The Weekend which continues with similar themes. This song has a more upbeat tempo from the outset than the opening track with a catchy riff that brings to mind Camp Cope. For the most part, the vocals are soft and almost soothing which contrasts with the loud guitars and crashing drums. However, throughout the song it feels like tension levels are building and the band really let out all their frustration and venom by the bridge – ‘I don’t care about your new job, I don’t wanna hear about your paintings, Tired of sleeping through the weekend, I don’t wanna hear about your new friends.’

The third song on 5 Years Behind is Bumming Me Out. It’s probably clear from the title but the song is about how it can sometimes feel like everything you see or read is getting you down, wearing you down and/or freaking you out. In the weird times we’re currently living in, this song hits home even more. The song itself doesn’t get me down – or bum me out – however, instead it feels encouraging and powerful. A particular line that stood out to me at the end of the song was ‘Anxiety gets the best of me but it won’t break me down.’. We’ve had some louder moments on 5 Years Behind thus far but the fourth song takes things up another notch with the ferociously fast paced, Fake News. No prizes for guessing what this song is about! Much of the song is made up of shouts of ‘Fake news!’ but there are also two verses which feature some brilliant exchanging of lines between Nikki, Kate and Shari. What’s better than one kickass vocalist? Three kickass vocalists. Home opens with a distortion heavy guitar riff and firm bass line before the drums come in along with a second guitar part. When the vocals come in they are of the softer variety again, as THICK sing of how it can often feel like those you love the most – your family and perhaps life-long or childhood friends – can be the most narrow-minded. Sometimes you forget that not everyone is as accepting or welcoming as those within certain circles – the DIY punk scene, for example. ‘Feelings like anger and love share no gender they all feel the same.’

If I was to pick a standout track from this album or at least a song to play to someone who had never heard THICK before, I would choose track number seven. Mansplain opens with a variety of sound snippets featuring men making statements such as ‘girl bands are really in right now’, ‘are those your boyfriend’s drums?’, ‘are you girls on the list?’, ‘do you think they’d be this successful if they were men?’ and ‘they sound great for women’. Doesn’t that just make your blood boil? It’s hard enough being a woman in day-to-day life sometimes, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is in the music world. Sadly, women and non-men are treated like shit on a daily basis and we need bands like THICK and songs like Mansplain to put these men in their place. (I know not all men are like this but plenty are.) Mansplain also happens to be a fierce feminist anthem that I can’t get enough of.

The second half of the album begins with WHUB which has lengthy instrumental introduction that serves as a suitable interlude between side A and side B of the record. We soon learn that WHUB stands for ‘where have you been?’, as THICK reminisce about meeting someone for the first time and wondering where they’ve been since then – ‘I’ve been thinking ’bout when we met, With your guitar strapped to your back, Where have you been?, Where have you been?’. There’s a lot of songs on this album that I imagine are great to yell along to at a live show and WHUB is no exception. I think a THICK show would be a very cathartic experience for both the audience and the band. Maybe one day, when all this is over, I’ll find out for myself. Up next is Won’t Back Down. THICK slow the pace down a little here for an empowering song about standing up for what you believe in. Despite not being as fast paced or so obviously assertive as some of the songs on 5 Years Behind, I think Won’t Back Down is a real highlight of the album. It shows that you don’t always have to be loud and aggressive to get your message across, even though that does sometimes helps. The song also features some piano which adds another dimension to the THICK sound that we don’t hear on any of the other tracks. THICK bring the tempo and volume back up somewhat for Can’t Be Friends. It’s a catchy number with the band’s pop sensibilities on show alongside their raw garage sound. It’s a contrast of styles that reminds me of London via California femme punks Charmpit and has me thinking that a tour with those two bands would be awesome – when touring is a thing that can happen safely again, of course. The song finishes with some excellent layered vocal harmonies before fading out with plenty of distortion.

If you liked Mansplain, then you’re bound to love the penultimate song of 5 Years Behind – Your Mom. It’s a short and snappy song that doesn’t waste a single second in getting its point across. Opening with stop-start guitars between the lines ‘Have a baby’ and ‘Have a career’, Your Mom is about the often unrealistic and unnecessary expectations that mothers – whether they are our own or not – can have for young women. Similar to Fake News, the verses are intense outbursts while the chorus is more melodic. I don’t think the song would work half as well if it was just one or the other and I love that THICK can pull of both styles with ease. Finishing off the album in style is Party With Me. Although the song begins in a somewhat subdued tone with stripped back guitar and gentle vocals, you can guarantee that a song with ‘party’ in the title isn’t going to stay that way. And it certainly doesn’t. Party With Me is about wanting to let loose and have fun without worrying about all of the aforementioned things that this album has covered thus far. Obviously the repeated lines of ‘Take your clothes off and party with me’ are insanely catchy but I think the following lines hammer the sentiment home all the more – ‘We’ll have a drink and take a walk, And then we’ll go back and we’ll talk, About the bullshit that we wish we knew, But in the end we never do.’

5 Years Behind has gone from being an album that I accidentally stumbled across when simply looking for something new to listen to, to absolute essential listening and an album that is certainly one of the very best I’ve heard this year. So, what are you waiting for? Stick it on and turn it up loud!

You can stream and download 5 Years Behind on Bandcamp here and like THICK on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

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