By Kristy Diaz
Despite it being the band’s breakthrough album, Full Collapse was not my introduction to Thursday. Neither was their 1999 debut Waiting, released when I was 12. Like many others, the first song that I heard was ‘Signals Over The Air’. The video was doing a rotation on MTV2, and the song settled persistently in my head. It wasn’t even so much that I particularly liked it, but I was certainly intrigued by it – it was unlike anything else I was listening to at the time.
Brand New and Taking Back Sunday, who I loved – still love – were high school. Their pain more dramatised, more affected. The hit of adrenaline quick and impactful. But ‘Signals Over The Air’ was something different. Meandering and indirect, with Geoff Rickly’s unconventional vocals and the flat echo of the drum creating distance, making it feel too far away for me to fully grasp.
Every Saturday, I visited HMV in Kettering to spend whatever spare money I had from part-time jobs on CDs. One week I went with the intention of buying War All The Time, but it was in thick cardboard packaging and as such was about five pounds more expensive than Full Collapse, tucked behind it in the rack.
I picked that up instead.
The record has meant different things to me over time.
At one point in my life, it meant a friend with whom I would go on long drives just to listen to it. It was tied up in them, in their identity, as they declared “Kristy is the only person in the world who loves Full Collapse as much as I do.”
There are people I don’t even know, who know that it’s my favourite record. My loyalty to it has been immortalised in the back pages of an indie comic, made the subject of inside jokes.
I have the band’s iconic dove logo, obviously, tattooed on my back. Grey, with the wing tips over my ribs and ‘Full Collapse’ on my lower stomach, between my hip bones. It will look increasingly ridiculous as my skin stretches and slackens with age – but at 19, I needed something to be mine.
As listeners, we often think about music’s ability to help us escape. Full Collapse allowed me to do that. Not the hedonistic, out-of-mind, out-of-body escapism, but geographically. Not only could I be someone else, but somewhere else. When I listened to the record, there was a wider world for me to inhabit. From a council house bedroom in the East Midlands – a bedroom covered in torn posters from popular rock magazines blu-tacked up haphazardly, pulling away the cheap turquoise paint from the walls – I experienced the basement shows of New Jersey.
My childhood was often weighed down with struggle, instability and separation. But when ‘Understanding in a Car Crash’ bounds in through ‘A0001’, my mind would feel clear. This sequence of songs and words I was so familiar with gave me a steady foundation on which I could feel angry and scared, but also safe while acknowledging those feelings.
When life was uncertain, “I don’t want to feel this way forever / a dead letter marked return to sender” made sense. It was nestled in the sleeves of this album that felt like it understood.
The record taught me almost everything I knew, at that time, about community, consideration and what it means to live a purposeful life. Being (in the most literal sense of an overused word) genuine. To be a Thursday fan is to be inseparable from their politics.
They wrote about love in a different way to a lot of their contemporaries. Full Collapse dealt with loss and pain and heartbreak without placing blame on an unnamed woman, without entitlement. With only sheer fucking humanity stripped bare, in its own overwrought fashion, but showing no shame or hesitation.
It taught me about concepts like cultural appropriation before I had the vocabulary, in ‘Autobiography of a Nation’: “We adopt their customs and everything they say we steal / All the dreams they had we kill.” Geoff Rickly wrote an essay for MTV (which I’ve been unable to locate since, lost to the dead zone of the internet) discussing radical politics and punk’s responsibility to create change. It was the music writing I needed to read.
The musical legacy of Full Collapse is monumental and widespread. It is also credited with paving the way for a whole load of bad imitations. You may be surprised to learn that this is an idea I reject enthusiastically. The early-2000s wave created a climate bigger than one band – Thursday are no more culpable for Hawthorne Heights than Converge are for, say, Emmure.
Instead, the record invigorated a social conscience, and a keen sensitivity to that wave of popular emo and post-hardcore, which avoided falling into directionless ennui.
There are records I listen to more now – records that could theoretically rival Full Collapse as a favourite album – but nothing has had the same formative impact, or been so inextricably linked to who I am today.
I still listen to it on buses after bad days. I listen to it on record when I want to think about the past. I listen to it start to finish maybe three or four times a year. I sometimes wonder if I actually like War All The Time better.
In the years that have passed since I first heard it, I have changed and grown but never far enough away to enjoy just being a fan of it.
I am convinced that there is no more precious role in music as fandom, no greater joy to be had than being absolutely engrossed in a record. To know its every note, every word, every off-kilter beat and each idiosyncrasy.
In 2011, during the tour when the band played Full Collapse in full, my friends and I spent the whole London show hugging and screaming along. Every time I’ve seen Thursday play live, Geoff has shared the stage with fans and I’ve been able to catch the microphone. Community and shared ownership of the band and what it stands for has always been central.
Full Collapse didn’t save my life, but it taught me about the things that would make that life my own. That, to me, is its legacy.