The Thermals – Desperate Ground album review

written by
Paul Paradis

Paul is a musician, writer, and teacher living in Tacoma. When not engaged in the endless task of raising his six year old whirling dervish James Sparhawk, he spends his time creating music, pursuing a bachelor's, working out, and living. He is originally from the east coast: Worcester, Mass. born, and Providence, RI bred. Having traveled around some, the Pacific Northwest tends to feel more and more like home with each passing day, Very similar to New England in some ways, but different in a way that is refreshing. Rock on.

Reading the bio of The Thermals comprises one of those experiences a person has where they realize just how much they are out of touch with the current music scene. This band is ten years old, and for all intents and purposes are brand spankin’ new to me.

The gist of the idea of this band is some kind of ‘Portland super-group’ whose revolving door line-up reads like some kind of one act Spinal Tap, without the spontaneous combustion. For a band that has switched up members with such seeming regularity, their output has been amazingly consistent.

Desperate Ground is an interesting album. The songs are well written, with a solid melodic line and vocal rhythm, but there’s nothing really original about them. While being really good at doing what they do, they’re not doing anything more than re-writing certain strains of melodic post-hardcore indie rock.

That said, I imagine this band must be great to get smashed to during a show while dancing wildly. The vocalist has shades of Jello in his voice, and I have a feeling that the guy can belt it out during a live set. His tone is surprisingly clear in the upper register and he possesses really solid intonation. The band is a tight unit, but could use to inject a little bit more of their own personality into their parts. The end result is a giant ‘bass-doubles-at-the-root’ festival, to the point of unfaltering duplication, all the way down to the rhythm. It can definitely get you moving, but it doesn’t really hold your attention.

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