The Thermals The Body, The Blood, The Machine

Three years after they first burst onto the Portland rock scene with their snarly debut, More Parts Per Million, post-punk threesome the Thermals return to remind people that the best politics is the kind you can pump your fist to. The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a concept album of sorts, weaving through its ten tracks a loose narrative that envisions a United States controlled by an uber-fascist Christian state, and urges us to get the fuck out while we can. Frontman Hutch Harris, bassist Kathy Foster and drummer Lorin Coleman have created the soundtrack for any crazy bid for freedom: ratchet up the sense of urgency with unscaleable walls of fuzzy guitars and fierce drums that drop like bombs all around, while Harris’s emphatic enunciations buzz overhead like a helicopter, watching it all go down. The Thermals’ upbeat four-chord structures bring to mind the post-grunge sound that dominated the early to mid-1990s — Green Day, woefully underrated Sub Pop act Seaweed, and contemporary groups like The Hold Steady come to mind — though absent here is the naivety and ennui of the period. This is rock’n’roll for the seriously concerned, an album about running from an omnipresent and vengeful god that seems amused by the authority he has cultivated through fear, who "might need you to kill” should he feel so inclined as to ask. Though a consistently strong disc throughout, the Thermals never really recreate the brilliance of lead track "Here’s Your Future.” In it, the track’s title is a cruel sneer, a dismissive smack delivered from on high to the human race below. The commentary throughout on the state of politics in the U.S. today is obvious, and at times, it can be a little cloying. But the sincerity and ferocity of Harris’s intentions are undeniable, and the result is smart, aggressive and relevant — everything a great rock album should be (Sub Pop)