The Thermals CD review [Sub Pop]

Music Reviews
The Thermals CD review [Sub Pop]
Mar 4, 2003, 23:31

THE THERMALS More Parts Per Million CD

This is one of those sort of bands that holds court at overloaded basement parties in college towns. They play crappy instruments, show glimpses of surprising talent, wear a beer buzz well, and crank out short, somewhat simplistic but very catchy two-minute songs one after another until everyone stumbles home with a make-out partner. These bands are all adrenaline and youthful energy. They never go anywhere, but the kids sure do bounce up and down and sing along to their live sets. On the other hand, The Thermals appear to be that rare exception of a basement band that just might go somewhere. The band is a Portland-area conglomerate formed from members of Kathy and Hutch, Kind of like Spitting, and another low-profile act. They were signed to Sub Pop a mere half-dozen live shows into their life cycle, and now college radio is taking notice. Comparisons to Guided By Voices have been common. Like GBV, they're strategically lo-fi (More Parts Per Million was allegedly recorded in singer Hutch Harris' basement for sixty bucks), and there is something to the comparison, but The Thermals are too nascent to have entered the realm of the complicated bard geniuses. The more apt comparison is 84 Nash (score 5 points to the dweeb record reviewer for obscure reference), a group of central Ohio youngsters who released their first output under the tutelage of Robert Pollard. True to the genre, More Parts Per Million is wrapped in a gauzy haze of fuzz, and most of the instrumentation melts into a two-tracks-thick goo. Like the standard bearers of the genre, the songwriting ranges from quite nice to pure gold. Unlike the standard bearers of the genre, punk bleeds through the lo-fi pop packaging more than classic rock, resulting in succinct, high-tempo songs of uniform length; no 15-second song shards or disintegrating finishes here. Hutch's melodic, high-pitched wail rising above the messy fray will have even the cynics singing along. Charges of monotony are sure to arise, and there is a strain of sameness throughout the disc's 13 tracks, but when that one thing is particularly compelling, sameness becomes a virtue. And hell, this band is just getting started and, should it stay intact, is sure to undergo a creativity arc during its life span that'll keep things interesting. Cheers for a great first step. [Sub Pop]

-Bo Pogue

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