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The Thermals: The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Album Review)

The Thermals have always been known for fast-paced, lo-fi rock, but on The Body, The Blood, The Machine, they’ve slowed down the tempo a little and cleaned up the sound a lot. While still passionate and noisy, the tempo isn’t that of Fuckin A. Three songs are well over four minutes, and there’s even a ballad. All the tracks are tied together by the album’s most compelling element: the paranoiac lyrical screed delivered by Hutch Harris, a rant that alternately states that God is against us, the government is against us, God is the government, God is for us, and we’ve lost God. For all the contradictions, there’s a core of earnestness that makes potentially trite references to sin and Jesus immensely appealing; the Thermals feel more akin to Ted Leo in their attitudes than the bratty pop punks who just want to poke people in the eye with angst. And if not for the lyrics that poke harder, they’d be just as radio-ready as the latter. “A Pillar of Salt” sports as catchy a pop hook as you could ask, and it’s the radio stations’ loss that it mentions “our dirty God, our dirty bodies” — and that other tracks offer similar lyrics. (Harris’ anthemic requests on “Returning to the Fold” include needing God “like a Big Brother.”) A few small instrumental solos — most notably the guitar outro that descends into noise as the album ends — make you wish there were a few more instrumentals to showcase the band’s musical prowess. But those would cut into Harris’ lines, so we’re probably better off without them.