In Thursday's "War All the Time," the "lullaby of carbon monoxide" is inhaled under a crumbling New York skyline. The title track of the band's major label debut is full of 9/11-inspired imagery, but

In Thursday's "War All the Time," the "lullaby of carbon monoxide" is inhaled under a crumbling New York skyline. The title track of the band's major label debut is full of 9/11-inspired imagery, but the song isn't about the explosions or the fires. Instead, it conjures images of the kids who are "still screaming" along to records in their basements, and the endless quest to find life's answers in a musical composition.

It's a mission Thursday continues on its first offering for Island, a passionately complex hardcore collection that became one of the most anticipated albums of 2003. The band mixes metallic guitar lines and eccentric rhythms with the ear-piercing screams of Geoff Rickly, who approaches every poetic line as if it's the last one he'll ever shout.

"I find it frustrating that people sometimes treat music as something other than sacred," Rickly says. "I hope that people listen to our music and think about things. It's not a thing where I hope they agree with me, but getting people to care or think is what I really want. One of the biggest problems with Americans right now is that they don't seem to care. They'll just turn on the TV and the news will roll over them and it's separate from their lives. Being passionate about things and having a voice is something I hope that comes back."

At the very least, Thursday is getting its brand of social and political punk on the airwaves. First single "Signals Over the Air" addresses the issue of sexism in mainstream pop music. Rickly compares the anti-radio single, with emergency-vehicle-like guitars and a call-and-response chorus, to the type of songs written by punk forebears the Clash.

"That was as easy choice for me as a first single," Rickly says. "I really like the idea of a song about the exploitation of sexuality being on major media outlets like radio and television. It's an exploration of how dark sexuality has been made by those forces. It may not be as interesting as 'This Is Radio Clash,' but having radio and TV play something that deals with issues of because of radio and TV is something I'm really proud of."

Elsewhere, the New Jersey quintet lashes out at corporate America in the thrash-like "For the Workforce, Drowning," while "Asleep in the Chapel" questions exactly what it means to be an American during this time of war. In what is the band's most accomplished musical work to date, Thursday is able to get its message across in the latter with a nifty shift from acoustic to power chords.

Throughout "War All the Time," Thursday personalizes world issues in a way that may bring to mind New Jersey's patron saint Bruce Springsteen. Yet Rickly says the album that influenced his writing, if any, was Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (Nonesuch). In fact, in the title track of "War All the Time," Rickly sings of the "ashes of American flags," a pivotal line from Wilco's 2002 work.

"You know, someone recently told me about that, and I never once thought about it," Rickly says. "I went back and listened to Wilco's record, and there are a lot of similar ideas. It was about making an honest record about who you are, where you're from and your dialogue with your country, whether you agree with your country or not. I definitely feel an affinity with Wilco's record. The only time social or political is even important to me is when it's personal, so we try to deal with issues that affect us as people."

For a band that tackles complex topics and features unconventional song structures, Thursday isn't the typical major-label act. Thursday may share similarities with such as bands as the Mars Volta and System Of A Down, but those groups are among the minority in the mainstream music world. Yet last year, Thursday found itself caught in the midst of a bitter label dispute that eventually landed the band on Island.

Thursday wanted off of Chicago-based independent Victory Records, which released its 2001 effort "Full Collapse." The group went as far as to post a statement on its official Web site lambasting the label. At the time, Victory was in the process of aligning with MCA, but when Thursday jumped to Island, MCA lost interest in Victory.

But Island's fight for Thursday was apparently well worth it. "War All the Time" debuted at No. 7 on The Billboard 200, a career best, and has already sold 74,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. "I don't even know what to say," Rickly says of the debut. "It's sort of surreal. It doesn't even make sense to me."

Looking back, Rickly doesn't regret going public with his frustrations with Victory, despite the unwanted press it brought his band. "I feel bad that our band has that in its past, but at the same time I feel it's a good thing to stand your ground," Rickly says. "There are so many bands on the label that I really respect, so I just assumed it would be a great place for us."

Rickly says the label drama didn't affect the recording process for "War All the Time." "This was a stressful record to make, but not because of the label stuff," Rickly says. "For 'Full Collapse,' we recorded it in 20 days, and that process was separate from our lives. This was recorded over six months. Life resumed for each us during the making of the record and all the stresses of life came in. We had members get married, and there were deaths in families and stuff like that. I feel like all the stress is reflected in the way the album sounds."

Indeed, the album lacks any of the hooks usually found on a band's major-label debut, and sees Thursday retreating more to its experimental tendencies. Rickly, however, says fans shouldn't get to attached to the sound of "War All the Time."

"I'd say more as a reaction to hearing this record, the next record will have some more hook-orientated songs in them," Rickly says. "When you write music, you hear what you've done, and you immediately find what you're missing with what you did. I miss having some of those hooks. Not that I'm disappointed, of course. If this were a really hooky record, I'd say it weren't complex enough."