The second album from Portland's excellent lesser-known three piece The Thermals, the album title tells you more or less everything you need to know about this album - it goes straight for the jugular with no messing about.
Playing what they describe as No-Fi and sounding like a brutal mash of emo-tinged punk and no-name (stuff like The Parkinsons, Ikara Colt etc. spring to mind), it is rare that Hutch Harris and the gang write a song over 3 minutes in length. True to form, the average length of a track on this album clocks in at under 2 and a half minutes. The opening track doesn't even make it to that: 'Our Trip' clocks in at just under two minutes. Featuring one of the best lines on the album ("it's our trip.. and we're not listening!"), this is lyrically indicative of the rest of the album, as Harris often refers to "us" and "we". The spirit of punk is alive and well in the Thermals. Having listened to the album a few times, there are three extremely good songs on this album (namely 'How We Know', 'Forward' and 'A Stare Like Yours') and the rest is competent. None of the tracks on this album can be earmarked as 'bad', even if the musicianship is basic and could be written by anyone. The real talent here lies in the vocal melody and the hook-laden lyrics of Hutch Harris, who makes writing great pop songs look easy. His voice might even be considered reminiscent of bands like Death Cab For Cutie, even if the music doesn't immediately suggest it.
One potential downside of The Thermals are that all of the songs here tend to follow the same style, so if you dislike one song on the album in particular you probably won't like any of them. In the same way, anyone who listened to the first album will notice they haven't changed their sound particularly since then, so anyone hoping the Thermals would have advanced since then will be disappointed. Even the tempo throughout the album feels more or less the same aside from one slightly slower track: "When You're Thrown is very laid back, but still bears the same 'sound' as the rest of the album. With only one real 'sound' on this album, you'd expect it to get very boring very quickly, but part of the longevity of this album comes from its length. With 12 tracks totalling a mere 28 minutes, there's not enough time for you to get bored. Also, the track order is so well arranged that even if you only like a few individual tracks you won't be tempted to skip the rest. That's a thumbs up from this end.
If you don't like fuzzy guitars or you didn't like the previous Thermals offering, it's best you leave this on the shelf, but if you've never heard the Thermals before and you like no-name punk or lo-fi then check this out. If you liked the previous album 'More Parts Per Million' then this will do it for you once again.
on 11 June 2004
If you are a fan of the thermals,you will like this, if you are a fan of catchy scruffy rock,you will like this. I found this album took a few goes round in the cd player,before i really understood it. The thermals are against bush and war. The album really is good you just have to give it a chance,if you like this you will like all their stuff. Great album and great band.