The Thermals Tread Familiar Ground to Produce a Great, Intimate Record
By KYLE SHEARIN
While it’s becoming trendier to amp up the fuzz these days, the Thermals have moved even farther from the lo-fi static charms that surround their first two records with their latest album, “Personal Life.”
It plays like a collection of the band’s past few albums, complete with power-punk song structures, polished hooks and the energy of the influential English punk-rockers Buzzcocks, all while being directed by front man Hutch Harris’ voice and thematic pining. It’s a sharp refining rather than just a formulaic tribute to itself.
Since 2006’s narrative heavy “The Body, The Blood, and The Machine,” the lyrics have shifted from the political and the social to the personal as the bulk of the record is about the perseverance of relationships—hence the album title—and self-help. If you had no problem with this change on 2009’s “Now We Can See,” you will not feel discouraged by this record at all.
But for those still looking for some indignation with their Thermal lyrics, this is another set of intimate songs that teeter on the edge of becoming benign. That is not to say that the lyrics lack substance, but the Thermals are always at their best when they’ve got something interesting or provoking to say.
On the album’s opener, Harris addresses his audience by intimately singing, “I’m gonna change your life. I’m gonna steal your soul,” but it seems a little unconvincing. When the band is in full-hook mode, they can be downright intoxicating. Songs that best exemplify this are “I Don’t Believe You” and “Your Love Is So Strong,” which both seem to be a composite of past Thermals pop-punk ditties with all the familiar “ohs” and “whoas.”
At a solid swig of ten songs, the album has no real duds. Every song could easily fit anywhere onto a mix-tape. “Personal Life” could have easily benefited from some experimentation and more peaks, but it easily satisfies.