They may have moved to Saddle Creek Records, but this flurry of high-paced, grimy pop tunes recalls the Portland trio’s time with what must be their spiritual home, Sub Pop.
Take opener ‘Born to Kill’ which kicks off as the most basic of two chord tunes. However, the hook meanders over all the place like a smacked-up Guided By Voices extended beyond the usual verse/no chorus format.
With vocals as distorted as the guitars and choppy rhythms, you could be forgiven for thinking they were a two-chord pony but it’s not just the vocal that evokes thoughts of twin political thinkers TV Smith and Jello Biafra – indeed, ‘Faces Stay With Me’ is a dead ringer for that forgotten Nirvana / Adverts cloning project while the non-ironic whooping on ‘The Howl of The Winds’ is the sound of a band without a care in the world, with frontman Hutch Harris’s gravelly howl making Rod Stewart’s tones seem velvety by comparison (Rod Stewart is touring the UK including four nights at Glasgow’s Hydro – tickets here).
There’s even room for a change in pace with slowie ‘The Sunset’ is a tune fit for greater things than being tucked away on a fairly obscure label whose biggest alumni are the decidedly downbeat Conor Oberst and Rilo Kiley. No, this is a band who if not made for Subpop are surely destined to change their masters’ reputation for the better. Whether band or label are ready for that is another matter, but for now let’s be glad that The Thermals are still able to put out records as good as this one.