The difference between listening to Thrice's 2001 debut, Identity Crisis, and their seminal 2005 album, Vheissu, is the difference between listening to teenagers sounding like teenagers and men sounding like men. Part of this was due to the band's transformation from SoCo hardcore punk into an artful expanse of modern rock and post-hardcore; the other part was due to vocalist Dustin Kensrue's natural evolution into a sturdier, gruffer singer (an evolution that would continue for years to come). However, the first true curveball Kensrue would throw at his fans came with the release of his 2007 debut solo record, Please Come Home.
California might not seem like a logical place for someone to develop a southern drawl, but that's precisely what Kensrue convincingly displays on this short-and-sweet country record. With an old-fashioned track list of only 8 songs, some of which contain little more than acoustic guitar, Please Come Home plays out like an age-old collection of parables. The heartbreaking title track is itself an adaptation of Jesus' parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15, except adapted here to be from the father's perspective. This is a winning lyrical turn, perhaps bested only by the opening track, "I Knew You Before," a scathing critique of a culture that destroys the self-worth of women by forcing them to constantly be beautiful: "I knew you before you were beautiful, back then / You could be beautiful again."
Elsewhere, blues enter the mix on the ode-to-faith "I Believe," and the show-stopping "Blood and Wine," an unforgettable 2-minute experience of stories strung together by the over-arching theme that when a person gives into sin, the human heart's only solution is to sin more and more in a downward spiral of dissatisfaction. In spite of the song's dark themes and brief allusions to drug use, theft, and adultery, the chorus melody, "Now that I've tasted blood, this wine seems too thin," is bound to take a permanent spot in listeners' memories.
While the album as a whole is an authentic country-storyteller experience, it's not without weaker moments. The melody of "Consider the Ravens" uncomfortably resembles fellow troubadour Jack Johnson's "Banana Pancakes," and the lead single "Pistol," dedicated to Kensrue's wife, has a harmonica solo that brings the mood close to cheese.
The closing track "Blanket of Ghosts" might also call into question one's interpretation of Romans 7--(it's worth noting that Kensrue wasn't as theologically careful and astute on this album as he would later be on the 2013 worship album, The Water and the Blood)--but otherwise, the organ-drenched ballad does a beautiful job of bringing this 8-song experience to a warm and solemn close. With suitable production from Thrice guitarist Teppei Teranishi, each fine-tuned song is memorable and enjoyable, not a single track containing more harmonies or instruments than it needs. Please Come Home ultimately works on many levels: it was a great start to a solo career for Thrice fans and non-fans alike, while it also prepared the Thrice faithful for the stylistic diversity the band would divulge in with future releases.- Review date: 11/18/15, written by Chase Tremaine of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Equal Vision
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