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Thrice speaks volumes

August 26, 2007|August Brown;Geoff Boucher

Think of some of the worst ideas a zealous rock band could entertain: Say, perhaps, making an elaborate concept record? Released in four consecutive installments? All themed around the elements (fire, water, etc.)?

The new project from the Orange County punk band Thrice is all of that, but the weirdest thing is, the group might actually pull it off.

"I don't know why anyone would want to listen to a band playing the same thing, album after album," singer-guitarist Dustin Kensrue said this week. "Being in a band is like being in a marriage, you have to work at it to keep it up."

And work at it they have. "The Alchemy Index Vols. 1 & 2: Fire & Water" hits stores Oct. 16, furthering the trend of popular post-hard-core bands that appear intent on turning into modern versions of either Rush or Queen. Volumes three and four are due early next year.

"Alchemy Index" finds Thrice occupying the most extreme aspects of their sound, including skittish electronics, bludgeoning rock riffs and acoustic musings similar to Kensrue's recent solo album "Please Come Home."

Not surprisingly, the band's former label, Island Records, passed on the project that initially was conceived as an odds-and-sods collection of sonic experiments that quickly grew more ambitious.

"They weren't overjoyed with it," said Kensrue. "Island had a different view of our future."

The band feels much more confident at its new home, the indie-punk stalwart label Vagrant Records. "We wanted to find a label that would be more flexible," Kensrue said.

Thrice fans have had to be especially flexible in recent years, as their major-label breakthrough, "The Artist In the Ambulance," pruned off the scruffy edges that won over their underground following, and their follow-up, "Vheissu," delved into the involved atmospherics that "Alchemy Index" more fully explores. Self-produced at the band members' O.C. homes, "Alchemy Index" surely will be debated by the Alternative Press crowd as either crazy or crazily brilliant.

As major labels struggle to figure out how to sell rock music at all, Thrice seems content to cede Fall Out Boy levels of post-emo success to peers more eager to flirt with pop stardom.

"You can see people make that choice," said drummer Riley Breckenridge, at a table outside a Starbucks in downtown Orange. "You can either say yes or no. The people that say no are sitting here."

-- August Brown

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Guitarist Lofgren's long-lost album

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the E Street Band will soon be touring again with new music (their first album in five years, "Magic," is due Oct. 2), and that will put guitar hero Nils Lofgren back on the road, adding even more mileage to a career now ticking toward the four-decade mark.

"Thirty-eight years on the road, that's what it adds up to," Lofgren said. "It's an overwhelming figure to think about."

The rock odyssey of the 56-year-old Chicago native includes a stint with Neil Young (he played on both "After the Gold Rush" and "Tonight's the Night").

One interesting chapter in his own solo career was the 1983 album "Wonderland," released the year before Lofgren joined the E Street Band. The long-lost gem is just now available on CD for the first time thanks to American Beat Recordings, which is making a name for itself by resurrecting albums that went missing in action or just never made it to CD. Among them: Willie Nelson's "Texas in My Soul," Ian Hunter's "All of the Good Ones Are Taken," and Joe Jackson's "Beat Crazy."

Lofgren's "Wonderland" was all but orphaned by MCA Records in the wake of a corporate shake-up that put Irving Azoff (the longtime manager of the Eagles) in charge. The new regime shrugged when they heard "Wonderland." And later, red tape and lack of interest at the label undermined every effort by Lofgren to get the album re-released elsewhere.

"It never got the attention it deserved, it didn't get promotion. I consider it the 'lost classic' of my solo career," he says. "It was very difficult for me. I know I'm not unique, I'm not the only guy it happened to. But it was very frustrating."

The album featured Lofgren on guitar and vocals fronting a power trio that also included drummer Andy Newmark and bassist Kevin McCormick. The band recorded the songs in live takes, and the energy propels cuts such as "Across the Tracks" and "Deadline."

" 'Deadline,' that one is a pretty powerful song, I've even started playing it live again," Lofgren says. "It's great to play that music again. And it's even better to think that now maybe it will actually reach an audience that wants to hear it."

-- Geoff Boucher

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