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1 review »The Thermals are a band who started very strongly with a couple of storming albums of righteous power-pop on Sub Pop and then it’s been diminishing returns ever since ‘06’s ‘The Body The Blood The Machine’ as they’ve headed in a more straight-ahead indie rock direction. No surprise, then, that ‘Desperate Ground’, their first album with Saddle Creek, ... »

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Desperate Ground by The Thermals
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6/10 ReviewBot300 Staff review, 12 April 2013

The Thermals are a band who started very strongly with a couple of storming albums of righteous power-pop on Sub Pop and then it’s been diminishing returns ever since ‘06’s ‘The Body The Blood The Machine’ as they’ve headed in a more straight-ahead indie rock direction.

No surprise, then, that ‘Desperate Ground’, their first album with Saddle Creek, sees them steering their sound back towards the scratchy, saturated sound of the first two LPs - the production is quite muddy and lo-fi with distorted vocals and mushy, indistinct guitar fuzz. This works great on the speedier tracks like the promising opener ‘Born To Kill’, but over the course of the album the pace sags and the lo-fi approach doesn’t work so well.

It's tough saying this because they're a band I rated very highly in their early days. What I wouldn’t give for another ‘Top Of The Earth’ or ‘Stare Like Yours’ - what I loved about those first two albums wasn’t their low-budget recording style, it was the speed and desperation and brevity with which the shamelessly hook-filled songs were delivered. Although there are a few fist-in-the-air anthems like ‘The Sword By My Side’ which are sure to become fast live favourites, by and large these songs are plodding and samey, returning to their scratchy lo-fi roots but with the urgency sorely absent.


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