“Your love is so strong, it’s only a series of lies.”
It seems like every time I hear new stuff by The Thermals, it is a poppier (and better produced) version of their last album. If not for Hutch Harris’ very distinct voice, you would probably not assume that the same band who produced More Parts Per Million in 2003 was the same band who made Personal Life in 2010. The production and style is so different.
What does this mean for Personal Life? Basically, you have a slick sounding album that, while it does have a good number of strong songs, does not quite measure up to the bands strong back catalog. While I neither expect (nor want) this band to keep remaking the same album over and over again, I like them best when they are ripping through songs. If Fuckin’ A is the record by them that I measure their other albums by (which, honestly, it is), this one is a mild disappointment.
The song “Not Like Any Other Feeling,” for example, is pretty much entirely pushed along by Kathy Foster’s bass. Save for a lead riff that is basically only played at the beginning of the verse, only to go back to bass and drums after only a few seconds. Compare this to “How We Know” (on Fuckin’ A), which is another bass driven song, with the guitar basically being chorus only. The major difference being that the vocals in the latter had great delivery. It all sounded very urgent. The former has a vocal delivery that sounds pretty fucking lackadaisical.
With the exception of “I Don’t Believe You” and “Your Love Is So Strong,” this record is more or less a plodding, mid tempo affair. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems like the energy of this album is just lacking. With the more “personal” flair to the lyrics, including some rather depressing moments, it seems like the album needs some fast to balance the slow. This does not really happen.
I know that this band can do a whole fucking lot more than they did here. The Thermals have always stuck close to writing pretty basic pop songs. This is probably the first album of theirs where that seems to be a weakness instead of a strength. This is the first record of theirs that does not seem to do anything better than the one previous.
All bullshit aside, I will give this a 3 out of 5. Will end up in my top 10 of the year, but barely. I am sure that the next record this band does will probably be their best.