Review Summary: The Thermals manage to tighten up their sound and release the album they've always been capable of. A passionate and exciting listen from start to finish and one of the standout records of 2006.6 of 6 thought this review was well written
Amidst an indie scene where songs are becoming more and more intricate, where layer upon glossy layer of sounds chosen from a variety of weird and wonderful instruments are encased into complex structures and arrangements – The Thermals stand tall and defiant, defending themselves with stabs of deafening guitar, thumping percussion sounds and a carefully constructed political message. Much like many of their Sub-Pop peers The Thermals could be described as an ‘no nonsense’ sort of band, but don’t let that fool you that their music is disposable to any degree, for most of the 10 tracks on display here are perfectly crafted and exciting even after days worth of listening time.
An ominous organ sound sets the album into motion, before being joined by blasts of guitar which will soon dominate the disc – it’s a steady build up like all good album openers, but before you know it the drums have kicked in signalling it’s intent, swiftly followed by an explosive chorus with a wall of distortion harking back to Sub Pop’s heyday. The songs message, like its backing track, is unambiguous and panic stricken as vocalist Hutch Harris screams out “God says here’s you future, It’s gonna rain!”. Here lies the overall theme of The Body, The Blood, Machine
; a vision of America fleeing some fascist/Christian mentality as though existence itself depended on it. It’s overblown, it’s unrealistic and it’s melodramatic, but somehow it doesn’t matter as the songs are carried by the unrelenting energy and heart which propels the album from start to finish.
Adding to the simultaneous feelings of chaos and liberation which pervade the record is a distinctive and determined vocal performance from Harris. It’s an unmistakeably American sounding voice in a style which would usually see me running to the hills, but at the same time it’s so genuine and unaffected that it’s impossible not to fall in love with. It’s this vocal performance which makes the melodramatic nature of the lyrics admirable, and in that moment in time believable and heroic. Harris commands;
“They can tell me what to read, they can tell me what to eat, they can beat me and send me the bill, but they tell me what to feel!? I might need you to kill”
Who this is supposed to be addressing, or what this even means is not clear, but in this instance it’s not even important. As I become wrapped up in each song I find myself clinging to The Thermals’ every word, and whatever they’re so brilliantly yelling about has got to be something worth fighting for. It’s like I’m 15 years old again, locked in my room listening to Rage Against The Machine, but it’s now 2007 and The Thermals are my contemporary and more than satisfactory successor for venting all of my superfluous hormonal stress.
To label The Body, The Blood, The Machine
merely an album for angry teenagers in their bedrooms, though, is to do it a disservice. ‘Spirited’ is perhaps a better word than angry in this case, and amongst the punkier tracks there are also those with a slower tempo and single tracks which ooze pop sensibility. Pillar of Salt
for example, a clear centrepiece in the collection, is a modern day indie anthem. With upbeat percussion and an unforgettable lead guitar riff the song never lets up, and with its energy alone it recalls Debaser
, Freak Scene
, In-Between Days
and a hundred other classic moments in Indie-Rock’s history. Admittedly I’m prone to hyperbole, but some songs are worth getting carried away over.
With it’s 10 concise tracks tightly packed into just 38 minutes, the band know their cut off point and don’t allow their album to stray from it’s point. Just before you might worry they are losing the momentum, The Thermals disappear behind a cloud of feedback which reverberates and leaves you begging for a bonus track. No chance of that I’m afraid, and despite the band sharpening their production from their previous effort they manage to maintain their basic sound, lose none of their integrity and blow the competition right out of the water.