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National Site
September 2010
The Thermals
"Personal Life

In the course of the last seven years, and four LPs, Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster have written pseudo-concept albums dealing with the complex themes of religion, politics, and death, but on The Thermals’ fifth record (second on Kill Rock Stars), aptly titled Personal Life, the trio tackles the most complicated theme of all, love.

Like the albums that came before it, Personal Life loosely tells its listeners a story. This particular tale is one of love, loss, and lies, told in the power-pop-punk style of pounding drums, catchy bass riffs, crunchy guitars, and The Thermals famous “woah oh oh,” choruses.

The titles of the album’s first three tracks (“I’m Gonna Change Your Life,” “I Don’t Believe You,” “Never Listen to Me,”) speak for themselves. These songs are self-absorbed, stubborn, and bear resemblance to phrases heard and said in any dysfunctional relationship. In the second track, and first single off the album, “I Don’t Believe You,” Harris calls out all the excuses people have for why they act the way they do in relationships. “Say your going through a phase, you’re just stuck in your age, I don’t believe you / There’s nothing we can do if I don’t believe you,” he aggressively explains amidst distorted guitar, bouncy bass and cymbal laden drums. The song’s tone is upbeat and cheery, increasing its bratty level.

By the end of the album, the tempo slows and the barriers crumble. Track titles begin with “You,” instead of “I”; the relationship has strengthened. The record appropriately ends with “You Changed my Life,” a song admitting how one person can positively alter another, even through the hardest and darkest of times. The guitar is cleaner, the bass and drums more subtle, and Harris’ voice more calm and collected. In a mere 32 minutes, the LP’s attitude has flipped 180˚, like a mature and healthy relationship. It is now safe to add love to the list of themes conquered by The Thermals.

-Katrina Nattress

MFNW Highlight: The Thermals, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, Past Lives, Thursday, Sept. 9, Crystal Ballroom



MusicfestNW is a beast on the wallet of those working through the weekend. However, the $17 dollar entrance (or whichever overpriced wristband chosen) to Thursday's show at the Crystal Ballroom never felt like a waste (the $5-plus soda and vodka was, however). Setting off the night were Past Lives, a Seattle post-hardcore band comprised of members of the Blood Brothers (yeah, one of the singers). At times, Past Lives dipped into the past lives of its respective genre, with noodling guitar lines and swerving rhythms. Yet, spaghetti western and surf-influenced guitar lines interrupted an unwelcome stroll down an all too familiar Pacific Northwest sound (Minus the Bear, These Arms are Snakes, and Blood Brothers naturally).

The full-force sound of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists was the deciding factor of my attendance. Rarely can such a song-smith produce quality pieces of rock-music that defy what's "in" at the time. Leo's tunes are timeless, so they're always in. The four-piece plowed through much of this year's great The Brutalist Breaks with a couple of crowd-pleasers, "Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone?" and "Sons of Cain." Ted Leo's rapid-fire set deceived the band's obvious maturity to rest of the bill.

Full-disclosure, I'd yet to purchase a complete Thermals album. Just my luck, as much of the set was comprised of tunes from the recently released Personal Life. While an album documenting a failed relationship doesn't sound like great live material, the Thermals brought the rock. The album's new single, "I Don't Believe You," was a distinct high-light. As long as I didn't listen to the lyrics, everything was great. Fan-favorites provided the tail-end of an inspired set. "Now We Can See," "Pillar of Salt," and "Returning to the Fold," and an encore cover of "My name is Jonas" made the cavernous and oft-alienating Ballroom into a great singalong. MFNW's Thursday was a night of earnest, strong rock. Even if this was the highlight of the weekend, what a highlight indeed.

-Nick Walker


Waking Lights release 'The Rabbit Hole' digitally on 09.17 - live at Maxwells

Waking Lights' orchestral psych folk sure doesn't lack in originality, character and good songs. And variety! These guys have the rare gift of sounding rootsy and innovative at once - a gift they share with The White Rabbits and Motel Motel. We really dig the song "Only the Sex", with its exotic sounding strings and Doorsy organ parts. The song's overall psychedelic atmosphere (and the rousing chorus in particular) are reminiscent of our good old friends The Occasion (cover of Deli issue #5). In the band's other tracks you'll find some aggressive bluesy numbers and several folk-ish songs with "telephoned" vocals floating on a controlled carpet of - alternatively - acoustic guitars, keyboards, feedback and strings. The NJ/Brooklyn based band will celebrate the digital release of their latest record ""The Rabbit Hole" 7'' on September 17 with a show at Maxwel's in NJ - highly recommended!


La Otracina's CD release party at Union Pool on 09.16

Around for 7 years now, NYC heavy psych rockers La Otracina are about to release their fourth album and tour the US in the fall. Recorded in bass player Evan Sobel's home studio and the band's rehearsal space over two years (Sobel also recorded/produced NAAM's s/t debut LP recently released on TeePee Records), "Reality Has Got to Die" blends classic hard rock, early-metal, and prog, but also includes forays into free-jazz, cosmic synthesizer music, and even folk. This is a band that you want to see live - don't miss the CD release party at Union Pool on September 16.


Jay Brannan @ 3rd & Lindsley

The term singer-songwriter elicits images of coffee shops, tortured souls and just about any character from “My So Called Life”. That’s why Jay Brannan, though he falls into this art-house trap, is a completely refreshing and bitingly honest turn from the suicide-inducing norm. The openly gay Brannan took the stage at 3rd and Lindsley Wednesday night looking every bit the quirky solo act, and also one that could have just stepped out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue.

What followed was an earnest set (and the stuff little boys’ dreams are made of) as he gave a performance that seemed to be a mixture of his Facebook “About Me” page and the heartaches that would never make it to the cyber world. His voice was chillingly clear and in choir-like perfect pit throughout the show. Putting a new face to the traditional angry girl folk singer, he makes the genre his fabulous own.

With only two studio albums under his belt, he played songs that fans have come to expect (evident by the applause that came within the first two chords of each song he played.).Beginning with the song “Home”, he set the mood for a night filled with similar sentiments that are found in the lyrics, “Late nights in Hollywood/Banging guitars and boys/ Swing sets and cigarettes were our joys.” Ani Difranco would be proud; Ann Coulter would be disturbed.

He followed with almost every track from his 2008 release “Goddammed,” and interjected some notable covers: “Zombie” (The Cranberries), Black Boys on Mopeds (Sinead O’Connor) and “Every Little Bit” (Patty Griffin). Perhaps the most unique cover was Lady Ga Ga’s “Nothing Else I Can Say,” before which he told the audience if they remembered nothing else from this show they should take with them the first lyrics of the song, which are: “Cherry, cherry boom boom gaga.” Sorry to disappoint you Jay, but I get the feeling the audience took away a different message altogether. Which is somewhere along the lines of: Forget the Rufus Wainwright comparisons, Jay Brannan is his own (more disarming) force to be reckoned with. – Krystal Wallace


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