The Thermals, The Body, the Blood, the Machine

The Thermals, The Body, the Blood, the Machine

Okay, first of all, a mea culpa to anyone who read my Thermals article and went to their show expecting the best live band on the planet. I saw their show in Austin, and they weren’t even the best band of the night. (That honor would go to Man Man, about whom all I will say here is holy fucking shit.) The Thermals seemed completely out of sorts, disorganized, and basically uncertain of their identity.

The Body The Blood The Machine sort of captures that feeling for me. It’s been near-unanimously praised, as near as I can tell, for its subject matter; you don’t get any gold medals in my reviewing book, however, for songwriting topics, and after the first two songs make pretty blatant Christianity/Nazism parallels, it’s clear that they’re not trafficking in subtlety. If this is maturity, give me the juvenile stomp and playful phraseology of “No Culture Icons.” That stomp, really, is what’s missing from lots of the record — in an attempt to “broaden their sound” or some such, there are far too many songs that come off as just dispassionate or lazy, two things you’d never brand their early records with. And if you sense the tone of a jilted lover more than an objective critic, well, perhaps I am guilty of that.

But then there’s the last song on the album, “I Hold The Sound,” and it’s here, in the face of something extraordinary, that my negative energy falls away. With a stomping 3/3/2 rhythm and staccato phrases, frontman Hutch Harris churns out a scary yet intimate portrait of life after the flood, after everything has been destroyed and only two people are left to start anew. It doesn’t throw in ostentatious parallels, dwell on pointing out religious hypocrises, or even ever really move beyond the intently personal, and it may be the best thing The Thermals have ever done (although the lengthy feedback ending means it probably won’t make many mixes). If they stop trying to make grand statements and focus on trafficking in emotional honesty, they could yet turn out to be one of the best bands going. But I’m not going to put my reputation on the line twice in a row betting on them.

(Sub Pop Records -- 2013 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA. 98121;; The Thermals --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, January 12th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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