The Thermals, from Oregon, play lo-fi garage-rock on
More Parts Per Million (Subpop, 2003), ignited by vocalist
Hutch Harris' poignant rants, such as Brace And Break, sometimes
bordering on punk-rock (the single No Culture Icons, Bord Dead). But his
rigmaroles vent frustration (Time To Lose) rather than anger, and, if
one removes the raw and rowdy band playing,
are not all that far from reflective pop (Back To Gray).
Fuckin A (Subpop, 2004) is a tighter parade of catchy sloppy refrains
that reference contemporary events.
Although no song is particularly memorable, the whole is both powerful and
The innocent verve of How We Know is ripped apart by the epileptic
refrain in a way reminiscent of the new wave of the 1970s.
The anthemic peak of the album is Keep Time, although the guitar
bacchanal is not matched by adequate vocal fervor.
Pared down to the duo of Harris and Kathy Foster,
the Thermals proceeded to deliver their gravest statement yet.
The Body The Blood The Machine (2006)
was a concept album built around Hutch Harris' hatred of organized religion and
The key to its success, however, was Kathy Foster's music, and her obsessive
quest for the anthemic refrain, that occasionally evokes a punkish
version of vintage Jefferson Starship
(Here's Your Future,
and especially A Pillar of Salt)
or an accelerated Bob Dylan (An Ear For Baby).
The frenzied anthem I Hold The Sound also recycles
elements of R.E.M. and
The Thermals have now a much wider and more varied range of styles at their
disposal, from the slow, martial I Might Need You To Kill to the
feverish and whirling A Pillar Of Salt.
The only drawback is that the "concept" slows down the music, as some songs
are obviously more interested in telling a story than in riffs, refrains and
Little is left of their garage days.
A lot less energetic and a lot tidier,
Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars, 2009) did not stand up to its
somehow found its best inspiration in themes of decay and
death: the anguished shout of When I Died,
the virulent singalong We Were Sick,
and especially the brief but burning and roaring When We Were Alive,
a welcome return to wild rock'n'roll.
Otherwise the power-pop ballads of the album tend to be predictable and
weak; distractions rather attractions.
The most vibrant is perhaps Now We Can See, but none of them amounts
Personal Life (2010) contains the peppy
I Don't Believe You and a lot of slower songs that don't quite
make sense neither as entertainment nor as exploration.
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