Saddle Creek Records' The Thermals are set to release their new, full-length record "Desperate Ground", ($9.99 on Amazon.com), on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Pre-orders that are placed through the Saddle Creek website will be accompanied by a free, digital download copy of the album in its entirety as a way of saying "thank you" for purchasing the physical album. Also available through Saddle Creek is the exclusive, marbled, red and black vinyl. You may already be familiar with some of Saddle Creek's wares that include such indie darlings as Bright Eyes and Ladyfinger (ne).
Portland, Oregon's The Thermals live up to their name on "Desperate Ground", which is steeped in insulated, fuzzy, feedback-tinged guitars supported by vocals possessing as much voltage as their instrumental accompaniments. You know what you're in for straight from the "Born to Kill" intro, which boasts a punk-driven sound dripping with influences from the legendary Ramones and early Guided by Voices. Evidence of a Ramones influence is even more apparent later on the track "You Will Be Free."
Oddly enough, "I Go Alone" sounds almost like Live's "All Over You", specifically the "Lay Me Down" chorus of the latter. (Additionally, Live has also produced the song "I Alone", which is similar in name but not in sound.) "The Sword By My Side" holds a more contemporary charm and would be a good first taste for someone not familiar with the band's work.
"Our Love Survives" punches the sky with its declaration of eternal admiration. "The Sunset" is the very epitome of carpe diem (seizing the day), whereas "The Howl of the Winds" would be a good fit for a rain-soaked movie montage, what with its can-do attitude encased in driving beats. Not every track here, though, is ideal for a marathon run. "Faces Stay With Me" is an inspiring dedication to those loved and lost but not forgotten, and while it carries with it the same air of rebellious sincerity, it better harnesses the undercurrent of sensitivity that is the album's lifeblood.
"Desperate Ground" was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Hoboken, New Jersey. Interesting factoid: Agnello and The Thermals completed this record and promptly evacuated the studio mere hours before Hurricane Sandy hit, an atmosphere that is reflected in the murkier tones of the lyrics and music found here.