The Thermals’ new album Personal Life is so accurately named you’ll almost find it hilarious if you’re a fan. It’s a relationship-song LP, a million miles away from the political rants-and-riffs of debut More Parts Per Million and the spiritual rants-and-rage of The Body, The Blood, The Machine. But it still shows the same passion and energy, and tricky mindfulness, that has appealed to fans of the Portland trio since earlier in the decade.
Jumping from Sub Pop to Kill Rock Stars just when they’ve laid down polished-up sounding power pop tracks like “Never Listen To Me” and “Not Like Any Other Feeling” and especially full length closer “You Changed My Life” (#1 on the pop charts in a perfect world) may seem perverse, but there’s no kink to loving their crisp new sound.
Hutch Harris and co. were smart enough to get Personal Life produced as professionally as possible, and yet the weird love-hate angst and surrender in the lyrics couldn’t be a more unique juxtaposition. Live, I would expect the same immense blitzkrieg that band always brings out, no matter how less “sonic reducer” on the new album they may seem. And The Thermals did not disappoint.
The Thermals jumped into the set, with “I’m Gonna Change Your Life” the opener to the first side of the new album. The power pop crowd pleaser “I Don’t Believe You,” pummeled the audience with the high energy youthfulness The Thermals have always delivered over the years. “Never Listen to Me” was a toned down with Harris’ rock version of singing low bringing your ears in closer for a proper listen.
Its raining outside, and within the intimate walls of the Music Lounge the trio’s full sound envelopes you into somewhere cozy and away from the elements. With “A Passing Feeling” Harris’ lyrical guitar licks accentuate his angst ridden vocals, and the tendons on Harris’ neck become more prominent with every passing phrase.
“Only for You” rocked with Harris’ surefire licks and the deep, penetrating bass from Foster, her bleached out ringlets bounced with a life force of their own as she headbanged and Westin Glass kept the beat. “You Changed My Life,” a prologue of sorts to the performance opener, brings a youthful approach to jaded feelings, mixing a positive message with dysfunction. They completely blew me away when Harris jumps right into the closer, “Returning to the Fold,” and I can’t wait to catch their live act at The Broad Street Stage tonight at 9:15.