Review Summary: Desperate Ground minus anything that made that album good
The Thermals are sort of a one hit wonder band, however, unlike most one hit wonders, their hit wasn't a song, it was an album. The Body, The Blood, The Machine stands tall above the rest of their career, both in terms of popularity and in quality. That isn't to say that The Thermals have released no other good albums, far from it, but none of them really stack up to BBM, all feeling simpler and less memorable. After a two album long attempt to somewhat distance themselves from the sound that made them famous, it seems that they came to terms with it and returned to their indie punk roots on their previous effort Desperate Ground. In many cases return to roots albums are appreciated, but I didn't feel that this was necessary in this case. The Thermals borderline perfected this style of music on BBM and it seemed that there was little reason to redo it. Rather than feeling like a return to roots, it felt like a retreading of already covered ground. That being said, a band should only record what they want to record, and if that's the style they want to write, who am I to stop them" Sadly, rather than offering any improvements, We Disappear is yet another step backwards for the band, with more of what made Desperate Ground an average album, and with less of the few positive qualities that album possessed.
The album starts itself on a fairly positive note, the first song "Into the Code" stands out as being one of few songs I think I'll listen to after this review. It has energy and a decent riff, things that are good, but also nothing terribly special. Despite my compliments for the song being few, that's the most I can really give any song on this album. Every song here is either average or below average. Even "bad" Thermals records had one or two good songs, such as ***in' A's God and Country. "Into the Code" would also have greatly benefited from a better production job. I understand that the Thermals are a lo-fi band, and that's fine, but few of these songs seemed to have gained from this. Many songs here lack any real punch, as the guitars lack any edge. It doesn't feel lo-fi, it feels messy. From this comparatively high point, the band proceeds to further lower the listeners expectations until about the halfway mark where I feel most will give up hope. Fortunately, the album picks up a bit toward the end. "Thinking of You", "Always Never Be", and "Years in a Day" all are among the best tracks here, mostly due to lack of stiff competition. While this does prevent the album from feeling like a complete waste of time, it does little to take away from the overall feeling of meaninglessness that overwhelms any positive feelings the listener may develop for the album. Everything in between these highlights should be avoided like the black plague in my opinion, with the possible exception of "Hey You", which still feels almost as pointless as the rest of the record.
Going back to a point I mentioned earlier, the production here is awful. Even the energetic songs lack any real sense of urgency, feeling comfortable softly pushing the listener rather than punching them. Every riff here SEEMS like it should be catchy, but I find myself bored by even the best riffs here. It's hard to tell if the band simply couldn't afford better production, or if it was a stylistic choice. If done for budget, I can understand, but might I recommend getting a $100 dollar tape recorder instead" Sure it'll be bad, but compared to what's on display here, it will be an improvement. It's very hard to describe production, I recommend listening to the first few seconds and come up with your own adjectives to use to describe it.
Overall, We Disappear is a waste of time. It's forgettable, boring, and poorly produced. Even it's best moments are overridden by the fact that anything done here well is done better on another Thermals album. If you're new to the band, I recommend listening to ANYTHING else the band has done first. If you're a casual fan, don't bother. I know hardcore fans will listen no matter what, but I hope you've lowered your expectations.