The Thermals More Parts Per Million

The early report on the Thermals may be best left to band lyricist, Hutch Harris. "Hardly art, hardly starving; Hardly art, hardly garbage,” sings the Portland, Oregon quartet’s front-man on the track "No Culture Icons,” from which this CD’s clever title is gleaned. The track is as catchy as atypical pneumonia, but the symptoms pass much more quickly. Recorded primarily on four-track (part of Sub Pop’s new back-to-basics philosophy, perhaps?), the Thermals’ debut is a gritty, noisy affair performed by players who run exactly zero risk of being mistaken for virtuosi. But it’s the band’s lo-fi (or "no-fi,” as coined in the Thermals’ promo material) energy and bold, old-school art-punk posturing that’s bound to keep listeners engaged. Indeed, Harris’s choice of alternately poetic and assumptive, confrontational lyrics is what keeps many songs from sounding like rackets for rackets’ sake. Even so, you never really finds out what dude is so animated about. Come disc’s end, the effect is rather like sitting through a really angry lecture at some chichi art school. And while it’s true that it hasn’t all been done before, this certainly has. (Sub Pop)