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Thermals, The - Now We Can See Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8
Musicianship 8
Lyrics 9
Production 9
Creativity 9.25
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 88%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8.69
Lyrics 8.31
Production 8.88
Creativity 8.56
Lasting Value 8.38
Reviewer Tilt 8.31
Average: 85%

Thermals, The - Now We Can See

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (04/14/09)
The Thermals - Now We Can See
Record Label: Kill Rock Stars
Release Date: April 7, 2009

Who?

Portland, Oregon's evolving indie-rockers The Thermals return with their fourth album and first with Kill Rock Stars, ending their career-long run with Sub Pop.

How Is It?

This is the type of power-pop that more bands would aspire to make, if I had anything to say about it. Now We Can See marks a further move for The Thermals away from the very lo-fi, irreverent garage punk of their debut, More Parts per Million, into more polished, but equally irreverent, territory. For those not familiar, it would probably be misleading to classify their music as pop-punk, but I'll do it anyway, because the description is apt, as long as you think more Ted Leo than All Time Low, in terms of both sound and penchant for sociopolitical commentary. At times on this new album, The Thermals sound almost as glossed up and infectious as early Weezer, an effective cover for their poignant and often sharp-tongued observations.

Throughout The Thermals' maturation, the one constant has been the uncalculated and delightfully eccentric vocals of Hutch Harris. He tends toward the monotone at times (though there is much more melodic variation on this album than in the past), which can leave the tunes coming off as a little flat, but whatever they lack in melody, they more than make up for in sheer electricity. If anything, the unrefined nature of Harris' vocals provides the vigorous spark that drives these songs and only adds to their irresistibility.

Throughout their history, The Thermals have had difficulty holding onto a drummer and, like their third album The Body, the Blood, the Machine, Now We Can See was recorded with bassist Kathy Foster performing behind the kit as well (with new drummer Westin Glass, ex-Say Hi, joining after recording was finished), once again performing admirably. With Harris contributing the guitar work, the duo create a simple, straight-forward sound that trades in technicality for raw energy. When the music is this magnetic, virtuosic displays would hinder the band's fiery punk aesthetic, and they smartly stick to basics.

To match the brighter, shinier feel of this music, The Thermals lyrical approach is a little lighter this time around as well. The last time out, the band created a concept record that embodied a thinly veiled criticism of Christian Conservatism through their dystopic visions of a theocratic America. Most of Now We Can See is based around the idea of looking back at one's life from the grave, and The Thermals frequently sound like they're having a lot of fun doing it, especially on the hindsight's 20/20 title track, which is about as catchy a song as you'll find, though they occasionally get contemplative, as on "At the Bottom of the Sea," an uncharacteristically slow song that's also a rare indulgence for the band, clocking in at nearly six minutes. With the recent change in the nation's political landscape, it seems that The Thermals have more optimism on that front and less to protest, which kind of has me wondering what the next Against Me! album might be about.

In the end, Now We Can See is a resounding success, marking an impressive reinvention for The Thermals that results in one of the most undeniably fun albums I've heard recently. Leave it to this band to record an album about being dead and have it come off sounding downright celebratory, an ironic, yet utterly fitting undertaking, given the band's predilection toward cynicism. Sure to please fans of the band as well as anyone with an affinity for propulsive pop, Now We Can See is the work of a band that has released some remarkable work in the past, and that is, evidently, still getting better.

Recommended If You LikeTed Leo and the Pharmacists' The Tyranny of Distance
Stiff Little Fingers' Inflammable Material
Superdrag's Regretfully Yours
Piebald's Accidental Gentlemen
Against Me!'s New Wave


Check out The Thermals on Myspace.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 21
12:03 PM on 04/14/09
#2
Liter-O-Cola
Is there a ghost in my house?
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Speaking of Weezer, the album cover reminds me of Pinkerton
06:00 PM on 04/14/09
#3
RetardedInLove
He Will Learn To Love Again
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This band is great, I am really digging this album. Great review too!
09:29 PM on 04/14/09
#4
hockeyguitar99
Prison Strength
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The only places I see the album, it's priced at $16. I'll wait till it goes down, but it sounds good. Good review.
03:37 AM on 04/15/09
#5
Ryzenfall
makin' good time
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Great review. The title track is indeed catchy.
06:17 AM on 04/15/09
#6
Liter-O-Cola
Is there a ghost in my house?
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The only places I see the album, it's priced at $16. I'll wait till it goes down, but it sounds good. Good review.
I feel your pain. Although I bought it for about that much at my local record store and it was worth every penny.
06:24 AM on 04/15/09
#7
itkeepsuswarm
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Whoa, what's up with the Average User Rating? This album is excellent. Definitely not better than The Body, The Blood, The Machine but it's intensely catchy and Harris's wordplay and lyrics are amazing
07:29 AM on 04/15/09
#8
DI Pistola
tune in Tokyo
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Whoa, what's up with the Average User Rating? This album is excellent. Definitely not better than The Body, The Blood, The Machine but it's intensely catchy and Harris's wordplay and lyrics are amazing
Seriously, the average user rating is bullshit.

This record is so boss.
07:55 AM on 04/15/09
#9
underthetalking
La Marea Roja
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Great album. I had been waiting for this. The Thermals are the shit.
08:20 AM on 04/15/09
radxbandit
i don't know
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great to see a hometown band up here!
09:04 AM on 04/15/09
eatsound
.
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Good review and solid album! Reaally good spring/summer music
09:14 AM on 04/15/09
WhitestKidUKnow
Cue the sun
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they decided to play a random show near me this saturday and this review makes me so excited to see them. I'll have to grab a copy.
10:01 AM on 04/15/09
ihaveblink
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I love the thermals and this album delivers a sonic pop blast. I got it for 12.99 at my local plan 9 music on monday. Keep putting this band on your site.
10:15 AM on 04/15/09
live.
Feenay! Fee hee hee hee heenay!
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Those are some damn good RIYLs....I'll have to check this out.
12:16 PM on 04/15/09
con40dmitri
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Heard this a while ago but couldnt really get into it..all songs seemed generic?
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