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Weekly Release Spotlight: The Thermals

Posted on 5/6/2013


The Thermals
Desperate Ground

[Saddle Creek]

 There is a sense of urgency that is apparent all throughout Desperate Ground. Actually, it's not just apparent, it's the essence of the entire record. Those vocals stay overdriven as if they were running through a megaphone. Those guitars stay distorted and heavy. The only times it lets up are during the gaps between songs, so you've got maybe 20 seconds total to catch your breath on the entire record. It's like Reign in Blood in that sense, but even that record has a brief rainfall interlude. Now I'm not trying to surmise that this record is more brutal than the thrash masterpiece, but rather that its a similar jolt to the system. This record, like the probably irrelevant aforementioned disk, is short enough that it's like the musical equivalent of drinking an energy shot. It's brief enough to be consumed entirely during a slightly irritatingly long wait at the bus stop. It's shorter than a few Godspeed songs.
Yet what's most compelling about the record is not its immediacy. The record is truly carried by a sense of melody that works its way in to every track, and they are paramount to this recording. Guitar parts tend to be relatively lower register power chords, and there's nary a weedly-weedly solo or synth lead line to be found anywhere. You've got to pay attention to where those melodies lead you, because Hutch Harris has an ear for a catchy tune that reminds me a bit of Colin Meloy. Hear me out on this though. Put on that track "The Sunset" (shared below this text for the week of this record's feature, may I remind you) and tell me that it doesn't sound a bit like a Decemberists tune getting the crap blasted out of it. That's not a bad thing! Meloy's got some great tunes! And so does this record. And when the bus is running late again, you might just have enough time to put it on repeat.

Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.

Tags: The Thermals Desperate Ground weekly release spotlight