Favourite Album of 2010: The Thermals -‘Personal Life’

31 Jan

"...a monster of an album that chronicles the delightfully moody intricacies of relationships with a brutal honesty."

The Thermals – ‘Personal Life’

(Kill Rock Stars)

The Thermals’ latest record reads like a sequence of poignant (if tongue-in-cheek) love songs, but it sounds like indie-punk dynamite. ‘Personal Life’ consists of ten songs and all of them have the same manic energy; there’s no slowing down, no pausing, and absolutely nothing that doesn’t deserve to be there. The Thermals have paired their ability to write absurdly catchy riffs with their penchant for the noisy buzz of guitar rock, creating a monster of an album that chronicles the delightfully moody intricacies of relationships with a brutal honesty.

Kill Rock Stars’ famous history of putting out unforgettable indie-punk records (Bikini Kill and Elliott Smith, anyone?) means that it shouldn’t be entirely unsurprising that the Thermals, who changed labels after their third record to work with KRS, have fully transcended their genre, no longer relegated to the dull improbabilities of being a good indie band. They’re simply a good band. The melodies buried beneath layers of distortion and drums might be obscured, but they are still very much there and most of them are close to genius. Years in folk (Hutch & Kathy) and pop (All Girl Summer Fun Band) music have taught the Thermals how to implement hooks and snares that are both sneaky and effective. The result is more than impressive; in an alternate universe, leading single ‘I Don’t Believe You’ could top the charts for weeks.

More than merely fun to hear, ‘Personal Life’ has an easy timelessness to it. With lyrics that rip apart the trite simplicities of the Love Song, the Thermals create a new archetype that makes no effort to hide the agitations, confusions, furies and (of course) elations of being in love. Personal Life’s cathartically messy narrative, equal parts self-deprecation and introspection, is a love story that pulls no punches.


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