CD Review: The Thermals

Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars)

They may have started on a whim, but the Thermals are serious business these days. Hutch Harris' songs moved from the lightweight 2003 lo-fi debut More Parts Per Million to the 2006 anti-religion screed The Body, the Blood, the Machine. The Oregon supergroup of sorts has moved from side project to primary outlet, and finally follows its breakthrough with the equally ambitious Now We Can See, maintaining a newfound sense of import. There may have been an increased political bent to 2004's Fuckin' A, but, c'mon, the record was called Fuckin' A. How serious could they have been? The oppositional tone on The Body was a somewhat startling — and eventually pleasing — development. It continues here with a bit less focus, with nods to our collective neglect of the environment, like on "At the Bottom of the Sea" and "When I Died" Overall, the ideas are even more convoluted than those of its messy predecessor. But "How We Fade" and the title track are melodically clear and tightly played and sung (even if Harris will never be able to shake the inevitable John Darnielle comparisons). If there is one thing you can say about the Thermals now, and Now We Can See specifically, it's that they know how to make a bummer sound like a great time.

Chris Drabick

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