The Thermals - We Disappear
The Portland trio return with their seventh studio album which sees the group continue tackling themes of mortality started on 2013’s Desperate Ground, but focusing on mortality in the modern age as we start to disappear into the online world. But don’t let this alarm you as all of this is layered over The Thermals trademark fist throwing pop punk riffage.
With ex-Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla on production duties, the ever reliable trio - vocalist/guitarist Hutch Harris, bassist Kathy Foster, and drummer Westin Glass - manage to take a brisk 30 minute album and cover it in a wash of ambient sound without losing the accessibility that marks The Thermals back catalogue. However, in spite of this, We Disappear doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the band’s canon of work and it’s themes feel a few years out of date. Album opener ‘Into the Code’ feedback squall morphs into an anthemic chorus touches on online connectivity and community making us more isolated, which would have been revolutionary in the mid-2000s but feels late to the party now. Highlights include ‘My Heart Went Cold’ which sounds like a Jimmy Eat World out-take, the raucous frat party sounds of ‘Hey You’, ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘The Walls’ both deliver the catchy pop rock associated with The Thermals.
And this, in a nutshell, is the problem with the album. On the surface it ticks all the boxes you expect from the band: sixth form poetry subject matters – check; catchy hooks and riffs – check; Hutch Harris shouty vocals – check; but it feels very Thermals by numbers. While repetition isn’t a bad thing (just look at the reverence given to bands like The Ramones) this feels like a band treading water as they struggle to match the high water mark of 2006’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine, or even recapture the rough and ready lo-if sound of 2003’s More Parts Per Million. We Disappear isn’t a bad album and The Thermals haven’t lost their edge or talent, but you do hope that next time round they rip it up and start again.