Review ·

Humor me for a moment and imagine a world where everyone is about five IQ points smarter. Al Gore is president, The Real World was the beginning and the end of reality television and Jessica Simpson is face down in a ditch. Sure, in this hypothetical utopia, pop-punk may still exist. But rather than listening to blink-182 and Good Charlotte, the kids at the mall are listening to the Thermals.

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The Thermals are dedicated to the immediacy of indie-punk, but unlike the aforementioned pop-punk garbage, deliver it with a sharp intelligence. Yes, this is standard guitar/bass/drums/pissed vocals -- and noisy as hell -- but the Thermals forego irony or "cleverness" for blood, sweat and aching honesty.

The well-named Fuckin' A darts through eleven songs in half an hour, never stopping for a breath. Hutch Harris yells at you -- not screams, mind you -- recalling Josh Caterer of the Smoking Popes but, you know, more into aggravation than Morrissey. On opener "Every Stitch" he belts, "The past dries/ But the ink stays alive/ Just push away/ Push away." He manages to sound off the cuff, but in an I-really-fucking-mean-this way -- a delivery tactic that's consistent throughout the record.

The Thermal's sound is in no way unique. At first listen, the songs -- each in some way political -- are hard to distinguish from one another; the pauses between tracks are mile-markers. Given its brevity, Fuckin' A merits an immediate repeat. Themes emerge -- frustration with politics and getting older, relationships going well, then bad -- and the songs become distinguishable. "How We Know" could be a lost Pixies gem with its bass throb. "A Stare Like Yours" is a love song masquerading as a punk-rock cut. And "God and Country" is probably the best summation of how American kids feel about their country these days: "I can hope, see/ Even if I don't believe/ Pray for a new state/ Pray for assassination." Fuckin' A, indeed.

The Thermals feel like the younger sibling of more-established Northwest bands; you can hear Modest Mouse in their frustration and Sleater-Kinney in their politics. The band is a side project for its members: Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster are in Hutch and Kathy and the All Girl Summer Fun Band, Jordan Hudson is in the Places and Operacyde, and Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie produced Fuckin' A. But the band fits nicely into the surge of anthem-driven punk that's growing increasingly popular with the likes of Pretty Girls Make Graves, Les Savy Fav, and Q and Not U at the forefront of indie-rock. Here's to hoping this really catches on -- get Fuckin' A for yourself, then lend it to your teenage brother.

  • Our Trip
  • Every Stitch
  • How We Know
  • When You're Thrown
  • Remember Today
  • A Stare Like Yours
  • Let Your Earth Quake, Baby
  • God And Country
  • End To Begin
  • Forward
  • Keep Time
  • Top Of The Earth/Thank You Goodnight
Les Sans Culottes - Fixation Orale The Kicks Hello Hong Kong
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