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The Thermals
Drunken Unicorn
March 2007

When I moved into my apartment on the southeast side of town there were two female art students living next door, the cute, creative, mildly insane type I'd been familiar with when I'd been an art student a decade before. Unfortunately the walls in the duplex had no insulation whatsoever so the neighbors' music blared through the walls only slightly muffled by the plaster. There was one CD (or more likely mp3) that was consistently cranked up, causing the girls to thrash about the living room with abandon. The only words I really caught were part of the chorus, "hardly art, hardly garbage," as the girls chanted along, bouncing the whole house. Not bad music, really, just not my music. 

Months later I'd end up dating one of the neighbors, degenerate EM. So in March she mentioned one of her favorite bands was coming to the Drunken Unicorn, The Thermals. "Uh... who?" I asked.
I am so old and uncool.
"You'd know 'em if you heard 'em," she said, then rattled off a few lines I'd heard before.
"Oh yeah, them. Sure, I'll go."
We got to the club late enough to miss one of the opening acts. The second act was on stage as I slipped back to the bathroom, snapping this quick shot of whoever they were, some synth-heavy act I thought was interesting in passing but I preferred to join EM in the neighboring bar for a drink rather than stand in the packed house.

 

Eventually the headliners came on to a sold-out room of mostly young faces. Lead singer/guitarist Hutch Harris is  thin and jerky a la David Byrne, but has has an intense presence and, much like his music, comes off as simultaneously angry, scared and lonely.  His voice is high and nasal, which works with the fast guitar sound  a la Dickies or Dead Kennedys. The rest of the band just follows in tow, hopping around.

I'm sure some of the rabid fans would take offense, but I was reminded of early Green Day, the more punky stuff that still had glimmers of introspection. But The Thermals' stuff seems deeply introspective by comparison. Music like this grabs a certain type of person and shakes them inside, sometimes forcing them to shake outside as well. We huddled by the side of the stage, the only place you could find a square foot for your (probably square) feet, where the more fanatical fans hopped around like mad and scared others away.

 

Overall, I enjoyed the show. EM tried to get me to listen to their stuff in advance so I'd arrive with a more educated ear, but I prefer to get a first impression live. In the discussion after the show EM agreed that they sounded a little monotone. Most of the songs they selected had a very similar sound, to the point where I was reminded of the Ramones, but she said the studio stuff has far wider variety. Regardless, they had lots of energy and catchy hooks but it might be that kind of stuff that expresses too many thoughts feelings for my personal tastes. Ask anyone - I can be a little on the thoughtless side...

Speaking of mindless entertainment, the next weekend found us at the St. PatPrick's Day Party.


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