Idol Chatter

Below is a review of “Please Come Home,” the new solo album from singer Dustin Kensrue, frontman for post-hardcore band Thrice. It was the winning entry of a student writing contest at Biola University, a Christian evangelical school in Southern California.

After six discs of screaming rock melodies, driving rhythms, and electric guitar riffs, the frontman of Orange County’s eight-year-old band Thrice decided to take a stab at a solo project.

Call it folksy. Call it raw. But Dustin Kensrue’s overtly Christian album is anything but the expected.

Most of the intricate electronic compositions that launched Thrice to fame are stripped away, leaving little more than a guitar, a simple strumming pattern, and the rough edges of Kensrue’s vocals.

But if this is acoustic, it’s anything but lethargic. At times amped up with driving ska beats, a Wild-West harmonica and some intriguing blues progressions, it’s something of a cross between inventive punk and Johnny Cash country.

What’s refreshing is that along with the musical complexities, Kensrue has also stripped away the cryptology of Thrice’s work. He lays out ballads that are simple and unashamed, a change from the band’s hope-filled but darkly allegorical lyrics.

Perhaps that’s because Thrice’s official position on faith was never explicit as Kensrue’s own. A proclaiming Christian and alum of Biola University, he laces parables and Old Testament biblical references throughout the eight-track CD.

There’s a maturity to his work—the kind that comes from wearying years in the fast-paced L.A. indie scene. He answers the inauthentic Hollywood lifestyle with the track “I Knew You Before,” telling a friend, “you always dreamed to share your heart/ but all you share is your bed” and lamenting her “dark glasses that no one can see in.”

He talks of settling down in “Blood and Wine.” And he embraces the simple life in “Consider the Raven,” a catchy little number featuring an interlude of saloon piano and the line, “between the river and the raven I’m fed/ Sweet deliverer you lift up my head.”

On the title track, a warm, modern retelling of The Parable of the Prodigal Son, he sings, “Don’t you know son that I love you/and I don’t care where you’ve been/please come home.”

There is nothing of what the New York Times called “mini-epics” and “anthemic choruses” that characterized Thrice. But it’s a highly personal, deeply spiritual album that showcases Kensrue’s vocal versatility, innovation and faith with equal conviction.

Kensrue has tried something entirely new with “Please Come Home.” Distancing himself from the security of his band was risky business, but the poetry of this album proves that being transparent and pioneering just works.

–By Michelle Rindels

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