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More Parts Per Million

The Thermals

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Album Review

Blazing through 13 songs in under half an hour, the Thermals introduce their bittersweet, rapid-fire indie rock on More Parts Per Million. The high-strung guitars, lo-fi production, and earnest vocals on songs like "It's Trivia" and "Goddamn the Light" recall the heyday of mid-'90s indie; indeed, comparisons have already been made between the Thermals' lilting melodies and manic energy and that of Guided by Voices. But where GBV cloaks their feelings in cryptic lyrics and titles, with the Thermals it's all out in the open; it's as if they don't have the time to fool around with that kind of cleverness — it would just get in the way of their songs. This gives the Thermals an immediacy that their influences haven't had in years, particularly on "No Culture Icons," an incredibly catchy manifesto against hipster irony, and "I Know the Pattern," where Hutch Harris' yelped vocals barely win the battle against the song's ferociously strummed guitars and crashing drums. Though the album's intensity works in its favor in the long run and adds to its on-the-fly appeal, on the first few listens More Parts Per Million tends to go by in a blur of melodic, punk-fueled energy. That's certainly not a bad thing, but it does tend to give short shrift to Harris and company's clever wordplay, which surprises on nearly every song: "Brace and Break"'s "We can turn bad luck into a bad joke" and "An Endless Supply"'s "A futuristic landscape shaped like today but just a few days later" exemplify the Thermals' witty and somehow touching lyrics. Adding some variety to their tempos would make the band even more impressive, but with More Parts Per Million they've created a bracing, charming debut.

Biography

Formed: May, 2002 in Portland, OR

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A Portland-based supergroup of sorts, the Thermals originally featured Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett, the Operacycle's Jordan Hudson, and Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster of the twee/folk-pop duo Hutch and Kathy and the All Girl Summer Fun Band. The group formed in early 2002 as a way for its members to play just for the fun of it, but their insistent melodies and punk-inspired urgency quickly won them a local following. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard became one of the Thermals' first fans...
Full bio
More Parts Per Million, The Thermals
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