Album Review: The Thermals, ‘Desperate Ground’

The Thermals, “Desperate Ground”
(Saddle Creek Records)
Available now
Rating: ★★★ (out of four)

The Thermals don’t break new ground with “Desperate Ground.” They don’t do anything particularly novel, change the dynamics of punk rock or deliver a scathing treatise of our government.

What they do is kill it with tracks that hit like a punch in the ribs.

“Desperate Ground” reaches back to the Portland punkers catalog with music that feels like “More Parts Per Million” and “The Body, the Blood, the Machine.”

Those in need of quick-hitting chords, bouncy beats, plenty of distortion and something to help them bounce around the living room will find exactly what they need here, just like they did with those past records.

Lyrically, it’s a violent record. Lead-off track “Born to Kill” spells it out: This guy and his sword are here to put an end to some lives. “The Sword by My Side” is an ode to his weapon, saying that “the sword by my side will allow me to be/the last thing my enemies will see.”

But it’s not violence for violence’s sake. Nor is it an indictment of a culture of violence or of war. It’s somewhere in between, and it feels more like plain old entertainment: A post-apocalyptic, cinematic tale of a man who must fight for what he loves.

It’s not all death and dying. A profession of love amid a whole lot of death caps everything off with “Our Love Survives.”

“Desperate Ground” is another snapshot of the band’s energy, and with songs that tell a story that sucks you into its scenes, it’s a great listen start to finish.

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