Two things about The Thermals: The Portland, Oregon indie-punk band made its first album, 2003's More Parts Per Million, for approximately $6 (they recorded it at home on six $1 cassettes) and it was released virtually as-is by Sub Pop; and before forming the group, Thermals principals Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster (once boyfriend-girlfriend but not for a very, very long time now) made quirky, semi-acoustic folk-pop under the moniker Hutch and Kathy. The first fact is interesting because even as the Thermals have grown and evolved over four albums — with more money, time, studio access, and ideas at their disposal — their music still retains the raw, desperate, wholly genuine spirit of a couple of kids doing things on the way-cheap in their bedroom just for the absolute love of it. The second fact explains how the Thermals — a power trio that's currently on its fourth drummer — can rage like the punkiest of the punks, with barbed-wire guitars and pummeling rhythms and venomous lyrics about political vampires, cultural wastes, and imagined end times, and still display a proud pop heart in its classic, winning melodies and strangely hopeful-sounding vocals. It's pop punk, less like Green Day and more like Hüsker Dü, and their latest — the loud, passionate, and obscenely catchy Now We Can See (recorded for their new label, Kill Rock Stars) just may be their greatest.
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