Borne of Baltimore, a city that takes no generally accepted aesthetic demarcation as a valid boundary, Thank You manages to hold its own in a town that’s become known for its (occasionally forced) creativity. Preferring to mate the squawk of post-punk with the stately intricacy of egg-headed prog, this trio has presided over a great debut and a host of exhilarating live sets that have touched on the patchwork eccentricity of folks like This Heat while speeding up the nagging rhythmic accents of groups like the Ex.
At a time when we’ve long since passed the saturation point for all things mining that same dead horse of twitchy post-punk, Thank You’s mastery and invigoration of the form is no small feat. And, largely, that very mastery is due to an obvious reluctance to stick to any real script. Terrible Two, the band’s second full-length (and last, sadly, to feature the excellent percussion of drummer Elke KW) succeeds mostly because it sounds like these three barely have any idea what’s coming next, so tenuous is their grasp on the bare melodies and intricate rhythms that segue endlessly throughout the album’s five tracks.
Thus, while album opener “Empty Legs” may start with whistle screeches and reedy organ pulses, it quickly works its way into a nest of full-fisted guitar and call-and-response chants, closing out on throbbing single-chord repetitions care of Michael Bouyoucas and Jeffrey McGrath. The only constant throughout is Elke’s drumming, which always manages to exist just on the brink of obvious collapse, and yet never once loses the thread.
Best of all is “Pregnant Friends.” Neatly showcasing Thank You’s innate ability to swap moods without warning, the song spends its first few moments skirting pop figures, wordless vocals and urgent two-chord organ vamps floating over manic cowbell. As soon as it gets just a bit comfortable, though, things flip again, the pulse gets frantic, and the screech of guitars returns to carry us all home. Derivative as it may (very) occasionally be, moments like these highlight Thank You’s wayfaring beauty.