It takes a special sound for an band to be able to gain license to produce that sound over and over again. The Thermals have that license. With it they use their fuzzy, down-strumming power-chords and the hooky, nasal melodies to craft Desperate Ground.
Like The Hives before them, this is a band who are faced with the challenge of following up a powerhouse debut, More Parts Per Million, and a career defining concept album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Their answer, it seems, is more of the same, which is what fans will find here.
Over the last two albums, the group’s sound has become more polished, which for some might take the fun out of a band known for its raw noise. Some might even go as far as to say that The Thermals are now just phoning it in.
There are, however, a few offerings of musical excitement to pull you in. Once again, Hutch Harris has a specific delivery of every word which grabs you and pulls you into the rhythm and the rhymes. The energy he puts in might not be anything new but it still has the power to get you singing along.
The driving bass on ‘The Sunset’ makes a trudging guitar track bubble, and is so simple it makes you sick with love. Lyrically the album focuses on the destructive forces in life: “Each night I dream of a war/ each one worse than the one before”. ‘The Howl of the Winds’ feels like it was recorded in blistering, headstrong wind, which is fitting since recordings for the album took place just before Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. This album also has poignancy due to the passing of former member Joe Burrows last year. “The friends I’ve lost/ I can clearly see,” runs one line in possibly the standout track, ‘Faces Stay With Me’.
While on such an understanding record label, The Thermals could probably carry on their post-pop-punk routine for years to come. This might not please those who believe in the evolution of the band, but as Harris calmly explains on closer ‘Our Love Survives’: “We fear not for we know/ our love survives/ it will never die”.
Picure: Jason Persse