The Thermals
Now We Can See


3.0
good

Review

by timbo8 USER (42 Reviews)
May 28th, 2009 | 15 replies | 4,299 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Thermals return with youthful punk energy, but they are capable of much more.

Kudos to the Thermals for not sticking with what works. After three albums of gradually less lo-fi, more fiery political punk, a detour into newer environs is an admirable, interesting move. With a catalog of religion and politics-obsessed rock, vocalist and guitarist Hutch Harris and bassist, drummer Kathy Foster decided to set a new course after 2006’s breakthrough The Body, the Blood, the Machine based on “the classic themes of songwriting and music,” namely love and death. Unfortunately, in a break from their usual political firebombing, the Thermals play it safe, almost generic, in the ultimately sub par outing that is Now We Can See.

For its treatment on “classic songwriting themes,” Now We Can See actually suffers most from its lack of focus. While musically on point, in that the band’s punk sneer and energy remain somewhat intact, the album is lyrically wishy-washy, with few of the lasting impressions or resounding choruses that have characterized the Thermals up to this point. Even the song titles, which usually reflect unmemorable choruses, do not inspire much individuality: “When I Died,” “I Let It Go,” “When We Were Alive,” “When I Was Afraid,” etc.

Despite a secondary objective of the band to vary tempos and experiment with changes of pace, the album begins rather flatly. Although “We Were Sick” features a fun, Foster-assisted chorus, the first three songs of the album are set at frustratingly similar tempos, making for many repeated listens before the songs distinguish themselves, if they ever do. The rest of the album finds the band shifting pace with mixed results, slowing it down on the delicate ballad “At the Bottom of the Sea,” reaching faux-hardcore speeds on the forgettable “When We Were Alive,” and reducing the guitar fuzz and simplifying the drums on the decent “Liquid In, Liquid Out.” The album’s clear highlight is its namesake, “Now We Can See,” which features a basic chorus (“owayowwhoa…”) that is nevertheless extremely catchy and engagingly youthful.

As much as I’ve wanted these tunes to ring in my ears after each listen, Now We Can See features song after song that, in the moment, are energetic, melodic punk numbers, but are utterly forgettable minutes later. For a band that isn’t the Thermals, a product like this would make for an impressive debut. But no, this is the Thermals of The Body, the Blood, the Machine fame.

The common mantra is to not expect a band’s previous album in later work, as this only leads to disappointment with a change of style, theme, etc. Nevertheless, fans know that the band is capable of more, and comparisons in this respect are unavoidable. The politics-fueled ferocity of the band’s prior efforts, namely the violent concept album The Body, the Blood, the Machine, are far more compelling than the muddled messages of Now We Can See. Harris as a vocalist sounded more impassioned, raw, gripping, and on the brink of insanity in 2006 than he does here, where he sounds boxed into overly tight, over-produced compositions.

Beyond Harris’s vocals, the whole band’s sound seems limited, its power muffled by safe, however hook-driven melodies and an unwillingness to surprise and take chances. The Thermals are best served by letting their punishing yet catchy punk energy reek havoc at full force. Whether or not the Thermals can tap that unrestrained energy from a non-political source, especially now in the post-Bush era, remains to be seen. Whatever the Thermals have next up their sleeve, hopefully it will involve a detour that’s more worth taking than Now We Can See.



Recent reviews by this author
Candy Claws Hidden LandsTitle Tracks It Was Easy
O.A.R. In Between Now And ThenSo Cow Meaningless Friendly
Christmas Island Blackout SummerUmphrey's McGee Mantis
user ratings (69)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2009



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i love this band and i love this album and wtf at not mentioning how we fade

mvdu
May 29th 2009



595 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There's plenty of personality here, and punk bite in the lyrics. This album is what I expected.

Time
May 29th 2009



81 Comments


I agree its not as good as the body the blood the machine (which I'd consider a classic) but this is probably a 4 or at least 3.5

iarescientists
June 12th 2009



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

can't stop listening to this

gonna listen to "The Body, the Blood, the Machine"

joshuatree
Emeritus
June 12th 2009



3743 Comments


the body the blood the machine is so much better

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 22nd 2009



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the video for now we can see is so awesome

ECRbubs
August 9th 2009



687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes, yes it is.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 9th 2009



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

his dancing is the best

Waior
September 12th 2009



11421 Comments


Depth isn't apparent on first listen but it's more than pleasant.

iarescientists
September 15th 2009



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lyrics are the best ever

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2009



17119 Comments


rulz

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

pixiesfanyo
September 15th 2009



1223 Comments


thought this sucked compared to the rest of their stuff.

KieranVandRakim
January 17th 2010



332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

rules

Knott-
Emeritus
April 15th 2010



10194 Comments


this is a lyrical masterpiece

fucking love this album, i actually think i might enjoy it more than TBTBTM

SmurkinGherkin
April 15th 2010



1769 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

^now way TBTBTM is faaaar better



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy