Review: The Thermals, The Lexington, Feb 9th 2009.

the-thermals-the lexington-feb 9th 09

So I came into this evening relatively blind as far as my knowledge of The Thermals‘ material was concerned. I’d seen the band once before but this was a drunken, chance encounter which I never suitably followed up. Tonight I’m here on the recommendation of a friend, thanks Ollie, and I’m determined to pay more attention.

Support band Calories warm the audience up with their punky songs, comical lyrical interplay between all three members and warnings of ‘mosh circles’. The novelty wears off quickly and I’m left badly wanting of some substance and a little offended by some of their squeaks and squals.

The Thermals play to a sold out Lexington tonight, a venue that boasts one of the most exciting live programs around since it changed from it’s Clockwork incarnation last year. This isn’t a one off for the band either, four of their five UK dates in February sold out in good time and it’s clear from the outset that there are a lot of dedicated fans in the audience this evening eager to share their knowledge of the band’s previous three albums.

For someone unfamiliar with the band on record it was still easy to pick out some of their big numbers. One being ‘No Future Icons’ from their first release ‘More Parts Per Million’ with it’s chant along chorus of ‘hardly art, hardly starving, hardly art, hardly garbage’ and ‘No one ideal, know what I feel’. Then there’s the fierce stab at religion that is ‘Here’s Your Future’ with it’s dialogue between God and son, the line ‘I need you to pay for the sins I create’ sticking in the mind.

This is intelligent post-punk from a Portland three piece led by the slightly camp Hutch Harris on vocals and predominantly 3-chord guitar, the bass and afro sporting Kathy Foster and the impressive Westin Glass on drums. Hutch’s persona reminds me of a less camp Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal mixed with the vocal style of a younger Craig Finn from The Hold Steady. A lot of their music also sounds strikingly similar to The Hold Steady who incidentally The Thermals count on their list of noteworthy bands that they’ve opened for during their career (Sleater Kinney, Guided By Voices, Yeah Yeah Yeahs,etc). It’s the big, repetitive guitar chords, albeit sped up minus the piano and extra layers of guitar, delivered with formidable passion and near perfect timing. Also comparable to a Hold Steady gig there’s, perhaps unsurprisingly for a Monday night, no-one that looks below 21 in the audience. That’s where the comparison stops though as the music makes me feel younger than I am and I unwittingly find a big smile creeping onto my face. Perhaps it has the same appeal for a lot of the punters this evening who take the opportunity to let go and shout like kids. At points it gets a little cheesy but overall I can’t help share the crowds enthusiasm for the quality of these quick fire songs and their incisive lyrics.

The band are currently working on a new album ‘Now We Can See’ (out in April) and they preview a couple of demo tracks this evening in the form of ‘I Let It Go’ and ‘When I Was Afraid’ both of which don’t seem a huge departure from the rest of the material but perhaps lean a little more towards the energy what I now know as their earlier songs.  ‘When I was Afraid’ is Nirvana like in chord structure so it’s no big shock that before the end of the evening we’re treated to a cover of the Seattle legends’ ‘Verse Chorus Verse’ impressively carried along by the able Dave Grohl wannabee Glass on drums.

Job done.

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