The Thermals' 'We Disappear': EW Review
Over the past 12 or so years, the Thermals have become one of indie-rock’s most reliable bands. Look on a festival lineup from any recent year — there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see the Portland trio listed in the middle-sized-font region of the poster, somewhere between Mates of State and Deerhunter.
A lot of this is due to their remarkable consistency: If you were to casually listen to all six of their previous albums in row, you might think they were all recorded in the same year (albeit in increasingly better studios). But there’s nothing wrong with that. What warm-blooded guitar-rock evangelist could deny the Thermals’ hyper, jump-on-the-bed-with-your-Chucks-on sound and singer Hutch Harris’ infectiously catchy ooh– and whoa-filled refrains?
By that measure, We Disappear is a great Thermals album in the way that most Thermals albums are great. All the sugary pop-punk riffs and first-pumping lyrics are here; at times, you might even think you’ve already heard one of the songs on a prior album. Some might knock such a feat for demonstrating a lack of “growth,” but I won’t — there’s something to be said for a trend-impervious act that strives to perfect its sound, not change it.
See: “In Every Way,” a charging, distortion-tinged rocker that’s all but undeniable in its simplicity. Probably about 87% of the song’s lyrics are, yes, “In every way,” but then all the better to sing along to. “Thinking of You” is pure bubblegum, a blast of Superchunk-via-Warped Tour riffs and sugary-sweet sentiment. Similarly, the raucous “Hey You” giddily shouts you into submission, all but daring you to not nod along.
Longtime listeners will also know that underneath the shiny harmonies, the Thermals can be pretty gloomy. Apocalyptic, even: The band’s best album, 2006’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine, was electrified by spiritual, political, cultural — just general — anxiety. That everything-is-nothing strain has remained in their DNA and gets channeled perfectly on (relatively) low-key stunners like “If We Don’t Die Today” and “Always Never Be,” which are perhaps We Disappear’s strongest moments. But it doesn’t always pan out that well: The doomy “The Great Dying” is destined to become zero people’s favorite Thermals song.
No matter: There are plenty of worthy contenders for that title here. This certainly isn’t the band’s best album, but it might be their most Thermals-iest album. We’ll take it.