Last Friday I came down with a killer cold. I rested up so I wouldn't miss what I knew would be a great show by The Thermals. Overcoming a common cold in order to Rock is a basic test that separates the men from the boys. Usually such tests prove me to be a little boy. A little, little boy. Such was the case on Saturday. So Rock Club called up a few minor leaguers, Stuttson and Michael B., to fill my spot. Considering my only contribution is making sure we stop for pizza after the show, they didn't have big shoes to fill.
I first got into The Thermals after listening to Fuckin A, their second release on Sub-Pop records. It’s 28 minutes of fury and fun. The latest album, The Body, the Blood, The Machine, is about a couple running away from an American government ruled by "fascist faux -Christians." Politically aware is probably a tame description for their lyrics.
Rock Club usually doesn't go for such bands. We don't need the lecture. We grew up on Fugazi (well, some of us) and we get the point. However, the lyrics aren’t preachy and the songs are simply great. [Side note: Brendan Canty, the drummer for Fugazi, produced the latest album so maybe the overt political themes aren’t too surprising]
The Thermals formula is simple: a few chords, a few minutes, and the song is over. They cram chaotic (yet catchy) pop melodies over distorted power chords. Genuis. When we saw them the first time, Eric Axelson commented to me, "all their songs sound the same". He's right, but in this rare case it's not a bad thing. The band plays old school punk rock at an unrelenting pace and I like it. It worked for the Ramones and it works for The Thermals. They’re like Vin Diesel: Fast and Furious. [Side Note: Wow, did I just write that? Had Potsy written that I’d have said it deserved a cockpunch] Here’s the beauty of seeing The Thermals live: if you don't dig that new song they're playing, wait a minute or two and they'll be playing something more to your liking.
Since I was on the “physically unable to participate” list for this show, I polled the rest of Rock Club for their take. Here goes:
The atmosphere at the first Thermals show was pretty energetic (as captured in the review title "Thermal Energy"). How would you describe the crowd? Did Potsy chat up any ladies?
Jimbromski: Crowd was into it. A fair amount of females. I don't remember seeing Potsy chat anyone up but then again there were times when he was not under my supervision.
Sacklunch: The crowd was into the show, although maybe not quite as much as the last time. There were a fair amount of dudes there, in fact, a small pseudo mosh pit started in the front right of the stage. I moved over to stage left and had great spot right in front of the bassist. It was pretty loud.
Posty: It was not a sausage fest down stairs. Lots of hot young chicks. I don't think I talked to any of them...but I was kinda drunk. Great crowd. Even some "dancing”.
Please complete this sentence: The show was better than ____________ but not as good as ___________.
Jimbromski: better than getting my scrotum chewed off by weasels but not as good as domesticating the pack of weasels and using them to do evil
Sacklunch: It was better than the 1st Spoon show but not as good as the 2nd Spoon show. [Yet Another Side Note: Sacklunch’s first response was not used out of respect for my mom and Potsy’s mom]
Posty: The show was better than Ezra but not as good as it gets.
Two Rock Club associates, Stuttson and Michael B., attended the show. What, if anything, did they bring to the table?
Jimbromski: Stuttson and I hung out at Potsy's before the show and we all cracked wise. Some funny things we talked about were a fictional commercial for Heavy-Flow Tampons featuring copious amounts of blood; the fact that Fox & Hounds Bar used to be the hang out for ugly alcoholic gay people who managed to survive the 1980s AIDS epidemic until we gentrified it, to the point where neither the ugly gay people nor ourselves can enjoy the bar anymore; zombie movies. Also Stuttson corroborated and added to the Van Halen details. Michael B, not so much beyond the small talk and jokes. We met Sacklunch and him at the bar and then went to the show.
Sacklunch: They both added nothing. Although Mike B. did drive me home. Stuttson had some good Van Helen stories.
Posty: Stuttson was actually hysterical pre-show at the clubhouse. Once we got to the Black Cat everyone went they're separate ways. I didn't see him until the show ended.
The show was:
A. Better than the first show
B. Not as good as last time
C. Basically the same
D. (Fill in the blank)
Jimbromski: (B) not as good as last time. Still a great show but as always the "new material" detracts, if only because I haven't heard it before and I only want to hear the hits.
Sacklunch: B (Not as good as last time). It was still very good, but I had fairly high expectations the 2nd time around. Also, I think they missed having the other guitarist.
Posty: D. Better than I remember them
Complete this sentence: The show could've been better, if only…
Jimbromski: I don't know...less new shit? They played a Built to Spill song as an encore that I thought sucked. Maybe a different cover, some Alan Parsons, perhaps.
Sacklunch: The show could’ve been better, if only…I hadn’t puked when I got home.
Posty: The show could've been better, if only...there
were strippers on stage.
Was the sound at the Black Cat as crappy as usual?
Jimbromski: No, but it was fucking deafening. I had my earplugs in the whole time and it was still making my head pound.
Sacklunch: Sound was okay. It was fairly loud.
Posty: It was LOUD! Thankfully my middle-aged-man senses were tingling before we left and I brought earplugs.
Did you enjoy some Jumbo Slice afterwards?
Jimbromski: Stuttson purchased a jumbo slice.
Sacklunch: I did not enjoy a Jumbo Slice afterward. Like I said, I went home and puked. I only had a few beers and 2 shots of Tequila. I think there was something else going on. I wasn’t even drunk. Jimbromski puked in his mouth and swallowed it.
Posty: WTF? I think you would know. And I'm just not that into you.
Any other comments you'd like to include?
Jimbromski: It was a very good show, all the songs from the last album sounded great. I don't mean to say that the new songs suck; it's just that I need to hear things a few times before I make a decision. I'd rank it just a hair below the first show.
Sacklunch: You are a pussy for not going.
Posty: I was happily drunk for this show. The bassist really carries a lot of weight for this band. She rocks.
And there you have it. Another solid showing by The Thermals. They rocked hard, and while it wasn't quite as good as last time, it was still deserving of 7.7 Rock Club Rating.