Leave it to a Portland band to think we need to either become spiritualized ghosts or revert to simple times when we were all fish in the sea. The Thermals latest album, while powerful, uplifting punk rock for a post-zealot America, might be too hippy, too evolutionary for the beer guzzling sad bastards and bastardettes receiving the message.
The Thermals, whether they intend it or not, are going to break into a new fanbase with this record. Gone are the days of purist punks who are tickled to the bone with a band that draws anti-establishment messages through biblical references. Now We Can See will kill their spirit – maybe the ghosts on this record are those people?
Now We Can See does not rock as much as The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Far too many songs sound the same and the concept is watered down, literally. Hutch Harris described the leitmotif of Now We Can See as “songs from when we were alive,” with numerous narrations from beyond the grave. The record is filled with charming gusto, soul clutching breakdowns, and intoxicating punk riffs making every moment, whether power driven or a reflective ballad, deliriously catchy. If we are to make assumptions based on the album art, this is an album of swan songs, the last beautiful moments before the end.
Unfortunately, this is a step backwards in writing for Hutch Harris. I fear our paranoid hero has been reading Thorton Wilder's abomination Our Town. The leitmotif is reading at an eighth grade level, while The Body, The Blood, The Machine was a college dissertation. As we noted, friend Dylan Neeley said The Hold Steady's Boys & Girls In America (the post-Separation Sunday album) gets old fast. Perhaps the problem here is that as a punk band, it's hard to top the record that deceivingly uses Christianity to make a political statement? When the giants have been tugged to the ground from the ankles up, who is left to shout at? The answer is definitely not the sludge at the bottom of the sea or the other curmudgeons in purgatory.