The Body, The Blood, The Machine
he Thermals frontman Hutch Harris acts young. He’s angry. He shouts. Turns his guitar up. He’s got questions, he’d like answers; God, the government, their relationship. His relationship to them. Harris asks these questions constantly throughout The Body, The Blood, The Machine, the Thermals third album. An immediate and combative disc that blurries up a litany of angers over surprisingly versatile layers of pop-punk guitar thrusting, The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a focused tantrum, irresolute in its actual stances, but pissed and rambunctious enough to overcome its vagaries.
There’s supposedly a narrative buried here, but it’s thoroughly dissolved in Harris’s over-talkative mic presence and his band’s agreeable downhill tumble. At their worst, the Thermals seem guilty of the same brand of pocket outrage that has inspired seemingly every liberal in America to buy at least one bumper sticker. “Our power doesn’t run on nothing / It runs on blood / And blood is easy to obtain / When you have no shame / We have no shame!” Yeah yeah “Bush lied,” “No blood for oil,” etc.
Harris has a yelpy, confident voice, though, and a Craig Finn-like quality for being able to overcome half-baked boner statements, stupid rhymes, and dumbshit adolescence. More importantly, dude’s got a knack for miniaturizing the gargantuan:
God to Noah: “Fear me again / Know I’m your father / Remember that no one can breathe underwater”The lyrics, taken out of context—and unless you’re following the story, they are—could be cut and pasted from a million lesser record: Harris’s crisis of personal faith ensures Big Issue discussions throughout The Body, The Blood, The Machine, but he provides little footholds for the rest of us, like peppering your diary with emoticons. “Here’s your future!” “Good luck getting God on the phone.” Insistent, relatable, the simple pot-banging gives The Body, The Blood, The Machine a lived-in, homey feel, like an album you listened to a lot in high school.
Jesus to God: “Dad, I’m afraid!”
The Thermals are labeled a “garage” band a lot, but the truth is these guys have more in common musically with the Alkaline Trio than with Mudhoney, and that’s not meant as a slight: so few bands are willing to commit to power chords, single-note lead lines, power-trio simplicity. Anyone who put down this sort of blue-collar six-string punk-by-numbers will walk away reminded how much fun it can be. And the Thermals shan’t be accused of any sort of impure revivalism. No one’s forcing you to pin those ‘Anarchy’ badges back to your knapsack, but no one’s going to look at you cross-eyed if you do.
That’s it, really. We could delve deeper into Harris’s God complex, but there’s no clear line of questioning, no obvious entry points. His doubt and confusion are nonetheless a driving force, and there’s enough vaguely thought-provoking kerosene here to keep the lamp lit. The Body, The Blood, The Machine makes young and full of shit—and Lord, the Thermals are—seem worthwhile.