Nashville hardcore outfit Thirdface offer some indication of their state of mind through the titles of the last two songs on their debut album: “No Hope” and “No Relief.” Both of which are preceded by “No Requiem for a Wicked,” with just a brief interlude in between. That their album is titled Do It With a Smile, likewise, can only be a kind of harsh irony—there’s very little to feel good about here. No soothing sounds, no gentle reassurances, not much of any encouragement at all.
It’s not like there’s a surplus of optimism to go around right now—the country’s on shaky ground on various fronts, growing more precarious every day through an ongoing pandemic, an unsustainable system of profit over people and a far-right nationalist threat. The dark times have gotten comfortable and don’t plan to pull up stakes just yet, but what Thirdface offer on Do It With A Smile isn’t so much a salve for the resulting anxiety so much as a reminder to stay angry, or at the very least, harness its white-hot anger as fuel to keep on going.
And yet: Do It With A Smile kicks ass. Relentlessly, consistently, viciously. The album’s 12 songs and 22 minutes have a tendency to blow by in a bit of a blur, particularly in moments like the explosive “Buck,” whose 36 seconds bleed seamlessly into the explosive noise-rock pummel of “Ally.” If Thirdface never took a moment to ease back a bit on the throttle, simply charging full steam ahead into the fray with each 90-second blast of anger and energy, Do It With A Smile would still be an essential listen. Outside of similarly venomous hardcore albums like the recent offering from Portrayal of Guilt, few albums this year have offered anything so intense and menacing.
When Thirdface take the moment to drop the tempo back a little, to smolder rather than ignite, they showcase a side that’s every bit as uncompromising, but with more nuance to reveal. “Villains!” is one such song, a track that leans on eerie noise-rock and post-hardcore textures, built on open space and lurching basslines, delivering a form of sonic horror that’s less jump scare, more existential dread. Even that horrific crawl is fleeting; by the song’s end the band is careening at full-speed, vocalist Kathryn Edwards’ voice even more potent a weapon than even their blunt-force rhythm section. There’s not much room for reflection on Do It With A Smile, just action. They might sound like a cornered, rabid animal, but Do It With A Smile feels like an act of survival.
Label: Exploding in Sound
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.