The Thermals are touring behind their excellent new record Desperate Ground and bring their too-much-sound-for-a-trio to the Bowery Ballroom. Billed by their new label as “post-pop-punk trio from pre-Portlandia-Portland, Oregon,” the Thermals are manically enjoyable and the new LP features the distorto-voiced energizer single “Born to Kill” as the intro to a kind of upbeat mini-opera about human violence and ugliness.
“We like the sound!” exclaimed bassist Kathy Foster in an interview, displaying the exuberance that has served as wonderfully effective counterpoint to the whoa-that’s-deep themes of singer-songwriter-guitarist Hutch Harris.
This new record matches the heights The Thermals first reached with “Pillar of Salt” and “Returning to the Fold” from 2006’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Ms. Foster detailed the process a bit, revealing the secret to Mr. Harris’s distorted but oddly warm vocalities.
“We record demos on a cassette four-track and Hutch likes his vocals distorted. He has a specific set-up he likes. It also makes it easier for him to sing well with his vocals a little distorted in his headphones. He brought his set-up into the studio for his own benefit.”
It turns out that producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) suggested using the technique on the actual record. “So we got the cool distorted vocals we like. We love how our record sounds like a big lo-fi recording!”
It’s a great fit and actually, the whole enterprise is oddly fitting. The Thermals recorded Desperate Ground in Hoboken, NJ, and the last time I saw them was right there at Maxwell’s, on the night Osama bin Laden got what was coming to him.
Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, doors 8pm, opening bands Screaming Females and Black Wine start at 9pm.