Album 22 of 500: The Thermals-Personal Life

December 9, 2010

LABEL:  Kill Rock Stars
RELEASE DATE:  September 7th 2010

“I give you all that I have, I tell you everything,” Hutch Harris sternly sings on “Never listen to Me.” He sure does lyrically on the Thermals new album, Personal Life.

Personal Life is the Thermal’s audio diary. Perhaps, Harris and the gang are channeling their Pinkerton side, and this album is depressing.  Someone broke Harris’s heart and he is lyrically letting people know how he feels. The album could be a month to month guide to a failing relationship. From getting to know someone and wanting to be apart of their life, as we hear in the opening track, “I’m Gonna Change Your Life” to the healing and letting go on the last song of the album, “You Changed My Life.”

Since 2002, Portland Oregon’s the Thermals have brought us albums about the norm a semi indie punk band would bring us, politics and religion. The band has tackled the topic of love lost before off the last album with the song, “I let it Go.”  They have not avoided the common band song topic through the years, they just mixed it well over the last eight years.  However, Personal Life, their fifth full length album, is their most personal album to date.

Song after song is as personal as it gets.  The single off the album, “I Don’t Believe You,” is a song about trust and being fed up with the other person. This album lets the listener become the shrink. Each song leads the listener into a deeper and darker downward spiral.

Track three takes a turn for the worse, its haunting and its the realization of a failing relationship.  “Never Listening to Me,” is perhaps a realization that one has rushed way too quickly into a relationship, and its starting to sink,

“Follow my call/follow my voice/like you know me.”

“Never Listening to Me,” is asking, do you even know who I am, or do you even care? Oh, but it gets worse! The most depressing song on the album is, “Alone, A Fool.” Lyrics that can bring a grown man to tears, “When I have you close/I miss you the most/I’m alone.” Almost a reminiscence of an Elliott Smith song, and with that said, the man is suffering.

In “Power Lies,” he asks when he can heal, yet throughout the album he puts himself down. An example of this can be hear in, “Our Love is so Strong,” where he begs to be deceived. Someone set fire to the thermals emotional state, and it can even be heard in the b sides from this record, such as “Separate” and “There’s Nothing You Can Learn to Accept.”

Overall, this is a very powerful album. This is by far not their best.  Yet, the Thermals put a lot of heart and soul into the album, and this is their version of  Pinkerton. Relationships can crash and burn even for our musical heroes. Most bands have proved its easier to write a song about heartbreak than any other topic. As author Nick Hornby wrote and later restated by John Cusack in the film, High Fidelity,

“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobodies worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”

Luckily for the Thermals, their fans will always be there to listen. Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass need a hug.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records


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