The Thermals’ “Now We Can See”

Thermals' Now We Can See
By Chris Brunelle

Early on, The Thermals were described as post-punk and post-pop-punk. The only consistent change on this album from their formula is a relaxation in the tempo. It’s rarely slow by any means, but considering everything Thermals, it’s not as fast. So what shall we call this subtle change? The Thermals themselves propose post-power pop. Critics eat up genres like that. I think one of the most compelling aural themes the band’s always employed is a soaring energy that’s heartfelt, hopeful, and yearning. This slower tempo they’ve embraced enhances these attributes and leans even further towards anthemic.

“At The Bottom Of The Sea” is the first slow song in the entire Thermals repertoire and they bring the power to the ballad. They’ve perhaps been tender before, but here, they’ve stripped away the sharp corners of rock to let their sentiment resonate with straightforward simplicity. At the same time, they haven’t completely shed their own skin: tracks like “When We Were Alive” will satisfy fans of their earlier, blistering juggernauts.

The Thermals have never been short of intense emotion and feeling, and it takes a certain level of bravery to be so public, as they are on Now We Can See. Front man Hutch Harris has always felt strongly about culture, love, politics and all those things that are usually important to punk bands. But now Hutch is showing us that his heart is as strong as his jam face, as in “When I Was Afraid”, which has Harris singing “Love, it held me near / You held me close / I couldn’t die when I was afraid / … / I couldn’t die / I couldn’t live when I was afraid.”

The Thermals have always kept their aesthetic raw and now they’re practically naked. This is a compelling step in maturity for them even though some of the kids addicted to their trademark over-caffeinated chants may give The Thermals flack for getting soft. This sensitivity has the same intensity and when it comes down to it, The Thermals still rock balls.

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