Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Thermals: Culture Icons

"Hardly art, hardly starving. Hardly art, hardly garbage!"

And with that, I fell in love with The Thermals! The lyrics, from "No Culture Icons" of the band's debut LP More Parts Per Million, struck me as a direct dig at mainstream music. Not all mainstream music is bad, just because someone is on a major label, doesn't mean they aren't capable of making important music. It's just that over the last 15 years, that has been rare. Old school mainstream meant Bruce Springstein, The Who, The Police, Phil Collins...I could go on. New school mainstream is Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Fall Out Boy, selling Pepsi, Target and Burger King commercials. Do you see? New school mainstream music is all about marketing: "This song is what can we sell with it?". And THAT my friends is why punk bands exist, just to keep everyone focused. Which is why when Hummer offered The Thermals $50,000 to use one of their songs in a commercial, The Thermals basically gave them the finger. Now had Honda offered them 20,000 bucks for a Hybrid commercial, perhaps they would've considered that. Cause that's another horrible thing, it's not bad enough that music has just become a marketing strategy, it's being used to sell the most unnecessary and unhealthy things! How about a Black Eyed Peas song on a life insurance commercial? Just saying....

*sigh* This is actually a post about The Thermals....lemme refocus here...:

The Thermals, yet ANOTHER gift from Portland formed in 2002. Then they took off at indie speed! You ready? Ok, so they gave their demo to Ben Gibbard who gave it to Sub Pop Records, who IMMEDIATELY signed them and had the record mixed by Chris Walla! The record, More Parts Per Million, was released in March 2003. Then they lost a guitar player, gave the guitar to lead singer Hutch Harris and became a trio and recorded and released their second record Fuckin' A, in 2004. For some reason drummers are slippery, and The Thermals were no exception, flying through drummer after drummer. Good thing bassist Kathy Foster is also a drummer and recorded ALL drums for the band's last two records. Maybe even the last three, it's confusing apparently The Thermals have an unreleased LP called We Sleep In a Holy Bed, why unreleased? I have no idea, I'll get back to you on that one! At least we have The Body, The Blood, The Machine and Now We Can See to distract us from any "lost" or unreleased goodness we may wonder about.

What's great about The Thermals is their music is actually really simple. The arrangement in the songs are so simple and yet the lyrics are so powerful and sometimes that creates some complexity in the way you respond to it. When the music is overpowered by the lyrics it makes you pay attention to the words, whether you want to or not, then you have to deal with how that makes you feel.

Now I don't talk about many punk bands because I've only just discovered punk music. I had a preconceived idea of punk music being loud, screamo with no rhythm. I'm finding this to be very untrue! So starting with The Thermals, I'll be blogging about punk bands I now love.

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