The Thermals – More Parts Per Million

The Thermals
More Parts Per Million

Singer Hutch Harris began writing Thermals songs in his kitchen during the spring of last year. By the time summer rolled around, he had put together a real live band, featuring Kathy Foster (who also plays with Harris in the twee-pop duo Hutch & Kathy, as well as in the All-Girl Summer Fun Band) on bass, Jordan Hudson (who plays with the instrumental act Operacycle) on drums, and Ben Barnett (the only permanent member of Kind of Like Spitting) on guitar. After playing some shows that summer, the band signed a three-record deal with Sub Pop, quickly bringing about the debut, The Moss Motel, recorded by Harris on a four-track in his home and mixed by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. That pretty much brings you up to speed, so now we can move along to the album at hand, More Parts Per Million.
If you’re a fan of distortion, lookie here! It’s slathered all over the place, resulting in a very lo-fi garage feel that makes some bands sound immature, but it makes the Thermals sound warmer and fuzzier than anything you’ll hear for a while. Harris’ vocals ooze with emotion and frustration, sounding like a pepped-up teenager howling about his shitty day. Barnett’s guitar just soaks you in fuzzy warm hooks, while the spastic but tight combination of Foster and Hudson fly along with scrappy little rhythms that are certain to have your head bobbing. The end result of all this is like a vintage indie rock band (see Sebadoh, Guided by Voices, et cetera) playing tiny little pop songs for an elementary school audience. I don’t mean they are childish and immature, but they are highly energetic and refuse to sit still. They have short attention spans as well, as the songs come in quick little bursts, with the lengthiest of these 13 tracks clocking in at two and a half minutes. And there is a swagger to the whole thing that makes the songs sound a bit snotty, blended with an undeniable danceability that will have you shaking your ass all over the room.
It’s messy and it’s fun. Sometimes pop music isn’t meant to be cleaned up and polished to death, and here is proof of that.