Friday, 15 May 2009

REVIEW: The Thermals - Now We Can See

It's always great to be pulled into an album/band with one song and have the rest of the material live up to the promise of that first listening experience. So it was with my first forays into the world of Portland's The Thermals and their new album 'Now We Can See'.....hear title track > obtain full length > enjoy. Simple.

Simplicity is also the key to the addictive nature of this album, with the short, snappy nuggets of garage-tinted pop rock regularly delivering memorable choruses and singalong lyrics. It's when one delves deeper into the lyrics, however, that the true nature and additional complexity of the band's material present themselves, raking up subject matter from environmental concerns (When I Died) to what remains when we vacate this mortal coil (How We Fade). The mixture of the hook laden tunes and observant lyrics helps set the songs apart from more well known contemporaries like Weezer, as the listen offers something with more depth than the pork & beans basics of more chart-familiar artists.

The Thermals live at SXSW 2009 - I Let It Go

Moving on from their more overtly political past leanings, the central theme of this album appears to be the human effect on our own environment ("Never pure, never aware / Never a cure, never a care") and the process of our passing on ("I knew I could love or die / I let it go"). This darker content does at first seem somewhat at odds with the summery handclaps and ohh-wee-ohh hum along moments that fill the album but, after a few listens, it all begins to click and becomes an enjoyable quirk.

Despite the many soaring highlights - We Were Sick, When I Was Afraid, and the title track just to start you off - there are a couple of duds that see things peter out a little towards the end. Liquid In, Liquid Out doesn't really seem to fit the general proceedings lyrically and is somewhat mundane musically, for example. This is a minor quibble, though, for an album that delivers so frequently in terms of accessibility and thought provoking content. All this delivered in a less polished, perhaps even grungey - everyone loves that tag, of course - manner that has seen the band more readily accepted into indie circles (they're playing the Pitchfork Music Festival, if any further proof were needed).

Without being a shoe-in for a top album of the year, Now We Can See is certainly likely to appear on many year end lists due to the depth and crossover appeal it offers. This should see The Thermals start playing to increasingly larger crowds and there would be few to begrudge them such success on the strength of this newest outing.

Official Site

Buy it at Insound!

MP3: The Thermals - Now We Can See
Taken from 'Now We Can See'

MP3: The Thermals -
I Know the Pattern
Taken from 'More Parts Per Million'

Now playing: Spoon - Everything Hits At Once
via FoxyTunes

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