THE THERMALS – NOW WE CAN SEE (KILL ROCK STARS, 2009)

I don’t know what it is about The Thermals that command such relentless devotion from me. I am an unabashed Thermals fan, they are perhaps in my top 10 favorites of all time. I think what this scrappy Portland threesome does for me is to remind me of how much I love rock and roll. Everything about their sound is stripped down the essentials. A guitar, a voice, a bass guitar, a drum set, and sense of resounding urgency in every chord. In a world of bands aping this strategy of three chords, sing along choruses, and simple lyrics, while under the gauze of basement quality analog recording, The Thermals stand head and shoulders above their piers by playing straight ahead rock and roll with a sense of world ending urgency, all while sounding exquisitely clean but not too polished. It is hard to call Now We Can See a step forward in any way besides a steady line of incredibly catchy albums with smart lyrics and heavy themes. The heaviness of the themes, however, never even threaten the overwhelming pop catchiness of each song, each fully formed anthem maintains a sense of hope and buoyancy that should coexist in every rock and roll song. Following up their apocalyptic opus against reactionary neo-con religious pandering, The Body, The Blood, and the Machine had some of the most hopeful, beautifully written songs I have heard in a long time. However you may think I may misinterpret the song; “Returning to the Fold” remains a mantra of mine. Now We Can See follows a similar vein as the main themes deal with the desire for human de-evolution to escape the coming environmental catastrophe. The songs are written as if a dead narrator were recounting the desires and circumstances of his desire to swim with the fishes. The Thermals do rock and roll right, simple songs with beguilingly simple lyrics that are metaphorically rich and display a sense of fatalistic urgency that should match our own.

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