Indie rock veterans The Thermals use giant lo-fi guitars and manic lyrics to tell a story of digital identity crisis on “We Disappear.”
The band has made their niche in modern rock by using simple, distorted songs to imply complicated narratives. Their greatest accomplishment to date is 2006’s “The Body, the Blood, the Machine,” a punk rock concept album about a family escaping a post-apocalyptic theocracy.
“We Disappear” is a slower, slightly lighter album with a little less of their earlier album’s fiery intensity. It’s more retrospective and more personal with a little less third-person narrative.
It’s power pop with a distorted edge: a mix of catchy relationship songs with singer-lyricist Hutch Harris’ social musings. And it works; the songs complement each other.
The album opener, “Into the Code,” plays out like a thesis statement: bright guitars and sweet harmonies over some solid basslines. Harris’ sardonic voice details thoughts and feelings on being uploaded into the matrix, in experiencing a personal life translating into computer code.
Harris’ singing has always been one of the band’s best assets. He seems to bounce back and forth from a personal drive into his lyrics to a philosophical distance.
“My Heart Went Cold” is standard modern rock, a little brooding but with more fun and energy on top of that. It’s a poppy love song, with a bright feel but Harris’ singing makes you feel like something is just a little bit off.
It’s a smoother album than the band has done before. The songs fade into one another with ease.
“Always Never Be,” “The Great Dying” and “Years in a Day” each have a resigned retrospection to them. They’re heavy, mellow songs, the kind you’d play when you’re feely moody but the weather outside is stubbornly beautiful.
Sonically, the album isn’t groundbreaking. We’ve heard most of the instrumentation somewhere else before, in one way or another. But it’s a portrait of a time. Isolation and destruction have been a trademark of The Thermals’ work, and anxiety has been a trademark of alternative rock in general, but the album’s mood and motifs make it worth listening to.
Christopher McDermott is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.