[sic] Magazine

The Thermals – Personal Life

Though still in sight, The Thermals are now some distance from their angry, rousing debut More Parts Per Million. It twitched awkwardly with urgent power-punk chords and its political cynicism reached far into the band’s equally well-received sophomore effort, as well as into the iconic, frantic essentialism of The Body, The Blood, The Machine.

The Portland-based three-piece unquestionably took it down a notch of two for the resigned Now We Can See album, but they nevertheless did not compromise on quality; their three-chord wonders still injected life, meaning and necessity into their sound, and it’ll be no surprise to those that have followed the Thermal evolution since 2003 to find that it is with this album that Personal Life finds most common ground.

Irrepressible and unafraid of a pop-punk riff (see “Power Lies”), The Thermals have never been interested in the complex, effectively mining depth out of repetitive, melodious song-craft in its place. And, on Personal Life, Kathy Foster ‘s bass chops in and out with an assured touch, while Westin Glass ‘s kick drums restore the listener’s attention after rare lulls.

A sense of cyclicity is provided by the opening chugs of “I’m Gonna Change Your Life” and the album’s thematic closing echo “You Changed My Life”. Altogether poppier, but no worse for it, the bubblegum strains of “I Don’t Believe You” is as catchy and dignified as Ash ‘s recent singles collection. Latterly, “Your Love Is So Strong” bursts out of the tail order like a heart newly invigorated by the love it details.

There’s an argument that says the band have been coasting since the highs of The Body, The Blood, The Machine, but on Personal Life, though Hutch Harris ‘s abject anger has gone – the band’s acerbic snarl largely with it – The Thermals remain the same prospect they’ve always been. Coasting they may be, but not towards inadvisable waters.

Advised downloads: “Power Lies” and “Your Love Is So Strong”.

~Personal Life is out now on Kill Rock Stars .~