No Culture Icons – The Thermals

“Hardly art! Hardly starving! Hardly art! Hardly garbage!”

Man! I loved The Thermals. Such a high speed, ideas rich, rush of a band. They fitted right in with so many of my favourites. The Wildhearts, The Bronx, The Hold Steady, Ramones, Eels, REM. They all had common ground with the Portland punks and their urgent polemics. Hutch and Katy remained constant on vocals, guitar and bass while they burned through four different drummers in a little over 15 years.

“More coloured liquid! No scent, no skin! More stained paper! More parts per million! No new deafness! No self reference! No cults and no new stands”

2003’s More Parts Per Million hit me like a wet fish across the chops with it’s ‘get up and go at it’ demo style. I learned years after the fact that the album was recorded with almost zero budget. Just roll tape and go ape. From opening number It’s Trivia to the 13th track An Endless Supply the album is a white knuckle ride of intent over refinement. Not that it’s sloppy. Just very very lo-fi.

“No one ideal! Know what I feel! No two the same! Know two with the same name!”

The Thermals were ping tight on their records and held a mighty live reputation for chaos matched with harmony and rooms full of energy. More Parts Per Million was followed in 2004 by the equally brilliant but considerably more considered Fuckin’ A. Still brimming with pop hooks and immediacy it’s a minor classic. I recommend any of the bands records as a good entry point. They have one of those discographies like Guided By Voices, The Get Up Kids or Kaiser Chiefs where if you ask a hardcore fan a point of entry they just shrug and say “Hey, it’s all good”. If you were to look for a 2021 equivalent you’d find some Thermals in The Beths, Potty Mouth or Cleopatrick or perhaps you’d conclude like the sadly departed but still adored The Muffs… They’re sorely missed.

In their recorded span from 2003 to 2018 they boshed out seven full albums, over a dozen singles and EP’s and a couple of live records. I didn’t get them all but I can vouch for the one after the leap from Sub Pop to Kill Rock Stars. Now We Can See was a more melodic and less frantic album that had some top drawer indie rock on it. I’m going to post the title track of that mid period album along with the debut single below to show you two sides of this delicious little shooting star of an indie punk band. I’m enamored most though with the Everything in Circles era of the band so I’ll treat you to A Pillar of Salt from 2006 as well because you’re all good kids and you deserve it.

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