Of course it would only take mere days after poking fun at Anna and Daniel over only covering their favorite New Jersey-ite band crushes here at Fresh Heirs for my own favorite band’s new album to present itself to me. Ah well, here it goes.
Personal Life is The Thermals’ 5th proper album and their second on famed Northwest label Kill Rock Stars. The Thermals are sort of a forgotten band in today’s Indie Rock landscape. Their brand of power-pop-punk might not be in style anymore, but it is undeniably well crafted and catchy; adjectives that are missing in most blog blurbs about the latest whacked out chill sensation. On Personal Life, Hutch Harris(guitar/vox), Kathy Foster(bass/vox), and Westin Glass(drums) bring their songs down a few notches on the anthemic meter and crank up the guitar riff and introspective lyrical quotient. Only lead single “I Don’t Believe You” will remind you of The Thermals of old.
This new batch of Thermals songs are slower and have much more room to breathe. Songs like “Power Lies” are fleshed out and feature big, thick basslines and plinky, earworm riffs. The absence of a barrage of downward strummed chords give Hutch Harris’ vocals a much bigger center stage as well. This is both a good and bad thing. Personal Life is unsurprisingly an album of songs about love and personal feelings. Occasionally Harris will nail this sentiment –like on standout track “Alone, A Fool”– but often he falls flat. The Thermals occasionally get playful with this record’s production. “Your Love is So Strong” drowns out a trademark “Ohh–ohh–aaa–ooh” chorus in reverb and ups an impressive drum track.
All in all Personal Life is a worthy addition to The Thermals’ discography. It’s the sound of a band stretching their legs and attempting to find a comfortable position as the next of indie rock’s “Elder Statesmen”. It’s an album that will not disappoint fans but might also not excite any new ones. However I can certainly picture a high school kid somewhere growing bored of his old and worn out copies of American Idiot and Nirvana’s greatest hits, asking his older cousin to recommend him some tunes and finding in Personal Life a gateway drug to this music world we find ourselves wading in.