The Thermals – Desperate Ground
Desperate Ground immediately grabs your attention, kicking off with vintage Thermals. “Born To Kill” races through a minute and 49 seconds of pure rapid-fire post-pop-punk. It’s vintage Thermals with Hutch Harris railing against the Marines’ Born To Kill mentality and the way their recruits are “transformed” into killing machines. It’s a sign of things to come on an album that reflects on the desperate war times in our country and the dubious fruits of war. It’s a killer track, and the band’s most hit-worthy offering since 2009’s “Now You Can See.”
The Portland, Oregon trio is possibly a bit less caustic on this, their 6th release, and if anything, a bit more melodic. The album, their first for Saddle Creek was produced by John Agnello of Sonic Youth fame. It’s polished at times and raw and stripped down at others. It fits the music well; a powerful album and a good listen. The tracks weave together nicely making it an album, not a random collection of songs. The lyrics are missing some of Harris’s anti George W. venom and not quite as riveting in this new Obamian bliss, but still attention grabbing and worth reflection.
The songs are stories, albeit short stories, reflecting on the protagonist’s inner battles with war and turmoil, but tinged with just a sliver of romantic hope. “I Go Alone” is a highlight track and nice microcosm of Desperate Ground. We hear an inner battle between the savage side of war and the glimmer of hope presented by a love left back at home. Hutch Harris offers a dark yet hopeful tale in his distinctive, powerful vocals: “Each night I dream of a war; Each one greater than the one before; A cold dark force, it hangs above; I have to leave to save you, my love.”
Check it out on iTunes: Desperate Ground – The Thermals
The best cut on the album is “The Sword By My Side.” It’s stripped down, effectively under-produced, garage stomp. Kathy Foster’s breakneck bass drives the song and Harris’s guitar and vocals are superb. The soldier’s proclamations of his invincibility are tinged with detached doubt as the song rocks to a close. Good stuff!
The ten-song offering is a non-stop blitzkrieg of powerful pop-punk. comparable to late 90’s Green Day (or last decade’s Thermals). The lyrics, no longer focused on right-wing protestations, deftly focus on war and violence and are poignant, unlike so much cookie cutter crap flooding the market these days. Check it out and let us know what you think?