Saddle Creek | The Thermals | Reviews


The Thermals album review, ‘Desperate Ground’

Author: Dan Miller
05/23/2013 | The Washington Post - Going Out Guide | | Album Review
Kindred spirits: Sleater-Kinney, Japandroids

Show: With Hollywood and Pure Junk on Thursday at the Black Cat. Door open at 8 p.m. 202-667-4490. $15.

Hutch Harris could sing the phone book and deliver it with such passion you’d think the whole world hung in the balance. On the Thermals’ sixth album, “Desperate Ground,” he has lost none of that punk edge.

Accompanied by bandmates Kathy Foster and Westin Glass, Harris unleashes his nasal sneer over the band’s signature roaring guitars and melodic basslines. The result is that the new album sounds like just that: a new Thermals record. No big whoop.

“Desperate Ground” is a perfectly agreeable, if homogenic, collection of mosh-friendly anthems. But there’s nothing here that delivers on the promise of the band’s game-changing 2006 album, “The Body, the Blood, the Machine,” which deftly mixed punk anger with pop shine against a backdrop of scathing political commentary.

For its past two records, without the foil of George W. Bush-era politics, the band has veered more toward the “pop” end of the pop-punk spectrum. It’s nice to hear the return of more bite and snarl in this release, but it’s a paler rehash of past albums rather than a genuine return to the band’s roots.

The songs generally blur together into a collection of ringing, distorted guitar chords and shout-singing.

It’s good, clean fun, but the Thermals seem like prodigal children whom parents keep nudging to apply themselves.