The Murder City Devils - Midnight Service At The Mutter Museum
#circle jerks #punk #hardcore #family matters #urkel #urquelle
Society has engrained in me a deep-seated need to keep busy. Idling stresses me out.
Before I had even heard the Thermals’ new album, Desperate Ground, (out now, Saddle Creek), I had heard that it wasn’t particularly good. When people told me about it, they had already written it off. “The Thermals have a new album, but it’s not very good” is probably how I first learned the Portland indie rock band was putting out a new record. However, listening to this new record, I didn’t particularly agree with that characterization.
Desperate Ground isn’t the pointed, scathing commentary on Christianity and consumerism that perhaps their best received album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine is. But I’d be hard pressed to say that the Thermals even could put together a record like that again. It’s out. It’s over. Love it for what it is, but don’t expect it to come back around. Even the historical context that the album was written upon, the rage of most liberal and moderate Americans in the early 2000s, as we saw George W. Bush thrash our freedoms and convince so many Americans of the necessity of doing so. That anger is gone. Things are as fucked up as they’ve always been, but at least the guy in the White House is sympathetic to our ideals.
Instead, the Thermals pull themselves out of the rut that it seemed their last album, 2010’s Personal Life fell into. Desperate Ground sounds much more interesting and lifelike than that, like the Weakerthans if John K. Samson hadn’t gotten sick of playing punk in Propagandhi. The band finds themselves a perfect fit in Saddle Creek’s midwestern hard-edged indie rock roster.
This isn’t to say that Desperate Grounddoesn’t have it’s drawbacks. While the Thermals have pulled themselves out of the rut, the album doesn’t hit all the marks. Tracks like “The Howl of the Winds” and “Where I Stand” get stuck in the fuzz in Hutch’s guitar tones, but it works well with other songs. “Born to Kill” rules. Seriously. “The Sunset” and “I Go Alone” are fantastic rock songs that could find home thematically with The Body, the Blood, the Machine, if they weren’t so much more lyrically mature. Whereas the lyrics to tracks like “A Pillar of Salt” or “I Might Need You to Kill” hit the listener over the head like a blunt object, the lyrics on Desperate Ground contain more metaphor, imagery and are more personal.
Overall, Desperate Ground advances the Thermals sound. Somewhere along the way they got stuck, and while this isn’t their best, the band is moving in the right direction. Check it out on Spotify to see if you like it.