The Thermals, 'We Disappear'
The Thermals were picked up almost immediately in a thriving Portland, Oregon scene and taken under the scruffy wing of Subpop’s indie rock mama bird (following in the footsteps of notable influences Nirvana, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr).
Their debut ‘More Parts Per Million’ cost sixty dollars to make on a four track. It was scuzzy and urgent and sounded like shit and sounded great. Guided By Voices-esque.
On their follow ups ‘Fuckin A’ and ‘The Body, The Blood, The Machine’, singer Hutch Harris and bass player Kathy Morris kicked off the shackles of their Catholic upbringing and shouted at them, in turn cementing their role as purveyors of political pop punk.
Seven records down the line and they’ve diversified on the themes, singing with angst about love and technology, stepping up production values and generally becoming more serious. But, it’s pop punk! So how serious can you take it?
Trying to seriously analyze a Pop-punk album would be like trying to analyze the flavour notes of candy floss. However, it remains a fucking tasty treat that’ll bring you back to the fairground days of your youth.
Although The Thermal’s seventh full-length covers themes that are less than saccharine, such as the inevitability of death, the expiration of humanity, the chasm of intellectual questioning that has arisen from our ever increasing metaphysical connection to technology and digital realm-hood – it is still pop-punk, and it still dances with simplicity and it still grins with a head bang and a party popper of a clenched fist.
If a Labrador, all panting and smiles, had relations with a neglected, drooly, snarling Rottweiler, a ‘Thermals’ puppy might be the metaphorical mongrel outcome.
The Thermals are brilliant at creating that kind of dichotomous anarchy.
This offering is certainly less raw and enjoyable than their early stuff. It’s punk but it’s not aggressive - it’s not scary or danger.
First song ‘Into the Code’ is about how the human race will disappear but remain eternal in the realm of binary and technology. Such is the underwhelming nature of the content however, it could as much be a shout of existential crises about the longevity and meaningfulness the music has - ‘out of the past, we’ve been a mess, we bought it for cheap, we’ll sell it for less’, ‘each day away we’ll blow, into the code’ – As in disappearing into the matrix, the vast abyss of content on the interweb... maybe.
It’s not complex, but some interesting touches of crunchy gain and swirly, screaming feedback added by producer Chris Whall (of Death Cab for Cutie) fill it out pleasingly. Uncharacteristically lower tempo songs in ‘The Great Dying’, ‘In Every Way’, and ‘Always Never Be’ have hints of Band of Horses, with some awesome J. Mascis-style roaring guitar, but weird echo-y dramatic vocals make it less cool.
Highlights of the record are ‘If we don’t die today’ with nice lead guitar, but again less than inspiring lyrics, and ‘Thinking of you’ is a glorious summer playlist guitar pop song with harmonies that bring out Hutch and Kathy’s bygone past as a pop-folk duo.
Overall, it’s really not a bad album, I just yearn for a stray from the equation. Something a little more dangerous, a little less lukewarm, a little more thermal.