The Thermals - More Parts Per Million (Cover Artwork)

The Thermals

The Thermals: More Parts Per MillionMore Parts Per Million (2003)
Sub Pop Records

Reviewer Rating: 3
User Rating:

Contributed by: jonathanJonathan
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I figured it out. I have a theory. It was a few years ago now that a massive convergence of musicians occurred, a secretive well-hidden underground meeting in an undisclosed location, somewhere, anywhere–probably in or around the New York or Tri-State area. There, a coalition formed with th.
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I figured it out. I have a theory. It was a few years ago now that a massive convergence of musicians occurred, a secretive well-hidden underground meeting in an undisclosed location, somewhere, anywhere–probably in or around the New York or Tri-State area. There, a coalition formed with the plan to change rock and roll. To bring it back to how it used to be. And though evidence of such a meeting has never been uncovered, to this reviewer, this hypothesis, this theory, is the only way to explain the current rock offerings. Suddenly, as if rap-rock had never existed, lo-fi throwback 60s-esque driving rock began to overtake the airwaves. The Hives and The White Stripes both found mainstream success after years in the underground. The Strokes and The Vines both scored a major hit with their debut albums, and the former effectively commandeered the New York rock scene. Enter a west coast offering, Portland's, The Thermals. (Yes, another "the"‚?¶hell, why not?). With The Thermal's debut album, More Parts Per Million released on Sub-Pop Records, we have yet another lo-fi rock offering. Only this time, The Thermals describe themselves as "no-fi" with a real "d.i.y." (do-it-yourself) ethic. You know, for street credibility.

Singer/songwriter Hutch Harris recorded More Parts Per Million in his one bedroom house on a four-track. It sounds like it. Distorted vocals, distorted guitars, distorted bass, distorted drums, distorted everything. The vocals, especially, sound like they were recorded on a Playschool tape recorder with a plastic echoing Playschool microphone. Musically, The Thermal's are doing pretty much everything similar to their New York rock brethren. They sound mostly like a poorly recorded live Strokes mp3. We've heard this all before–first in the 1960s, now in all of the other similar bands out there.

The Thermals succeed in having some really catch hooks, and I suppose that's really what this type of rock is about. Lyrically they score about average. There is a reliance on much-repeated choruses. Every song sounds similar musically, though through that verbal repetition like, "On Your Breath/On your flesh/On line, On time," in song "Out of the Old and the Thin." So there are some distinguishing attributes in the individual structures, though overall, most everything is the same volume, tempo, and intensity.

In "Overgrown, Overblown!," the now standard style of driving guitar and syncopated drum beats are matched with Harris' sloppily annunciated, distorted vocals, "I see the fire/and it's faceless/I hope you cam here to embrace/and not escape it." The vocals here fade in and out, a power balance between grungy peaking guitars and Harris' wails. The recording takes as much prevalence as the music. A sequence from two of the last songs, "Back to Grey" to "Born Dead" is satisfying, with two of the catchiest offerings back to back.

The Thermals and their debut album More Parts Per Million are cashing in on a popular sound, and while the "no-fi" supposedly artistically credible recording and catchy hooks will certainly draw fans of the genre, I don't foresee this album making converts of the critics. And for a genre quickly becoming overcrowded, The Thermals sit on the fence with this average debut. It's better than some of the rest, but it's still a part of all of the rest. They face stiff competition. (Check out The Shins if you want something better). It has been reported that The Thermal's next album will be recorded in a more traditionally professional fashion. They had better hope this popular lo-fi garage nostalgic rock trend is still the hipster rage by then. It's beginning to all sound the same, and that's not conducive to a long shelf life.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
JahPunk (September 6, 2006)

smoking...need i say more. fuck the police.

Anonymous (December 25, 2003)

what a dumb reviewing job. jonathan obviously has a higher extremity shoved well up where the sun don't shine. sorry bub, a poorly recorded live strokes mp3 is exactly what it sounds like, crap. the thermals don't deserve to be on their bandwagon.

lieutenant (March 30, 2003)

Personally, I prefer the less stylized reviews of your average sickboi or moldy.

Anonymous (March 29, 2003)

My band sounds like the Ramones meets PiL. YAY!

sickboi (March 27, 2003)

Heh, "internerd". I'll give you credit for that one.

Facts straight? I just stated an opinion. I feel they are elitist scenesters. Opinions are like assholes my friend, yours smells just as bad as mine.

Anonymous (March 27, 2003)

No. You give yourself way too much credit if you think something you post on the internerd would ever hurt my feelings.

i do, however, think you need to get your facts straight before you make such an uninformed statement.

Anonymous (March 27, 2003)

I don't see how this falls into the "rock is back" category other than the deliberate lo-fi recording quality. It sounds like pop-punk, but good pop-punk.

sickboi (March 27, 2003)

Aww, did I hurt your feelings?

Anonymous (March 27, 2003)

and a pretty off base crack, slugger.

sickboi (March 27, 2003)

It was a crack at the scenester internet punk elitism.

Anonymous (March 27, 2003)

"Why don't you go ahead and put Jordan Pastepunk and Kevin Wade on the staff too."

uh, what?

sickboi (March 27, 2003)

Wow, no bold anymore, have the people spoken?

adam (March 26, 2003)

Its not to get free anything, it wasnt requested by the labels either. It was just something we thought would be ok from an organizational standpoint. I really dont see what the big deal is, sorry.

We are discussing what, if any, changes to make though. We do value your opinions.


Anonymous (March 26, 2003)

Sorry Adam, I'm gonna have to disagree. Its your site, run it how you like, but this new bold thing is absurd. So you need it to keep getting your free cd's? Thats pretty whack if you ask me. Why don't you go ahead and put Jordan Pastepunk and Kevin Wade on the staff too. Uber-whack.


ommaddon (March 26, 2003)

To: Punknews.org community and staff

We, the people, promote the abolishment of the use of bold print with review listings in the online community of Punknews.org. This movement believes not in creating barriers between fans of punk rock music, but in achieving solidarity as a group of one, where no man or woman ranks above the other in their active participation towards building a greater, international and equal online punk rock scene.

Well. I'm a new staff member, and though I have not conferred with my fellow staff, I' am more than happy to comment on this from my point of view. It is my understanding that the bold reviews are not to create segregation among the online community here, but to identify which reviews are, in fact, written by actual staff members of this website, in which we have many patrons. I believe it has always been the policy of Punknews.org to accept user submitted reviews. The editors of this site have done so, and though the user reviews are frequently littered with misspellings, inaccuracies, and leaning biases, Punknews allows a forum for your voice.

As staff editors and contributing writers, we receive promotional music packages from a variety of record labels for the purpose of reviewing that product.--standard practice. A bold review, in that sense, does not function for purposes of segregation, but to signify to patrons which review is coming directly from us--the staff, who undertake the task of reviewing a great number of records in accordance with our partnership with the labels. Hopefully you will find our staff reviews factually accurate, even if you not agree with our subjective review. I find it only fair to the music industry which we all support that Punknews would strive to its fullest ability to maintain quality news and reviews, and by having staff writers, I see this as an attempt to do that. Many sites do not support user reviewership at all, and Punknews has built its structure around this freedom. Now, with qualified staff writers and our great editors, you can expect a high caliber of reviews when you see that bold title. It's for the benefit of everyone: the industry who supports us, the musicians who deserve a well written and informed review, and the fans, to whom I, as a reviewer, strive to provide the best and most informative review as I can.

I don't see that bold reviews are meant, in any way, to demean or connote elitism, or to break the solidarity of the punk rock scene. Nor do I see it as an issue of ranking. Please understand that staff writers and editors that maintain the Punknews site put in massive amounts of time and energy to keep this community going. This is our work. This is what we are doing for the scene and for the music. But, to me, a bolded review is simply meant to convey our work as staff. My opinions and reviews may not be any better or more qualified than one submitted by a patron, and I encourage everyone to read both staff and user reviews. I have been provided a forum and a means for my voice to be heard as a staff member of this site, where I put extensive time and energy into reviewing music weekly. I am committed to keeping this site running, and I‚??m exited to be here.

- Jonathan

adam (March 25, 2003)

Ugh... why does everything have to be a controversy with you guys? When labels send us stuff they expect to see a tangible review. The bold helps it not get lost in the reader reviews of older releases and other stuff. Please understand that unlike most zines we actually DO post your reviews, there is no "we're better than you" bias, it's just an organizational decision that we felt was fairer from totally separating the staff and user reviews.

There are a million more worthy causes for you to spend your time on aside from font layout decisions on some website.


Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

Now, I really like this review! Good job bud.

- Scott
(Will my manager hurry up so I can go home!)

ommaddon (March 25, 2003)

The Stokes, The Thermals, The White Stripes, et al. The The's.

I compare the Yeah, yeah, yeahs and other New York bands based on that Strokes standard. Though we have Portland band here--The Thermals posessing a slightly differing, quicker, more raw sound. But like the Hives, they definitely exist in that same category. Not much Ramones here. Not much punk here. Lo-fi indie/bandwagon rock.

- Jonathan

Yellowtrash (March 25, 2003)

I don't know if comparing this to the strokes makes sense. Although I have not listened to the album, I saw them live a few days ago and they remind me of indie vocals combined with ramones style punk guitar and crash crazy drums. Their bassist is really hot too.

ommaddon (March 25, 2003)

The strokes are a expensively recorded to sound cheaply recorded velvet underground rip off.
The white stripes are a garage/blues/punk hybrid that got lucky and has a good PR person.
The shins are an elephant six style beach boys/powerpop group.
The thermals are a indie rock/pop band with more in common with guided by voices and boyracer.

Haha. Of course I agree with your assessment of the bands. That lo-fi Guided By Voices sound is definitely apparent here...even in the Thermals press packet there is mention of GBV. But GBV's earlier lo-fi stuff I just think is more original musically, and The Thermals are cashing in on this now popular trend while mimicking that New York rock sound.

The Shins are a total Beach Boys influenced band...I'm just a sucker for both the BB and The Shins...I think it's much more interesting music than this banal 4/4 driving everything playing-all-the-time Thermals sound.

There is no band to save rock'n'roll... I hope you picked up on the facetiousness...

- Jonathan

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

Wow that was a refreshingly good review. Not crap just straight forward. My local radio station has played this band a few times and it is recorded like shit, but I found it really catchy in fact I've been looking for Mp3s on this band to see if I want to buy the record/CD. Anyway great review please keep the bar raised!

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)


Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

The White Stripes are a good quality band. Better than most of that other shit. -Jay

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

very nice review! i commend you.

steakhouse (March 25, 2003)

I didn't mean to say that the strokes sound like the velvet underground, because they don't. They also make empty versions of televison and mink deville songs and mink deville were bad.

steakhouse (March 25, 2003)

The strokes are a expensively recorded to sound cheaply recorded velvet underground rip off.
The white stripes are a garage/blues/punk hybrid that got lucky and has a good PR person.
The shins are an elephant six style beach boys/powerpop group.
The thermals are a indie rock/pop band with more in common with guided by voices and boyracer.
Welcome to the staff.

travis (March 25, 2003)

good review...

Didnt care too much for this cd until I saw them live. now i constantly play it.

FortyMinutesWest (March 25, 2003)

Good review, although I would've rated them lower. Most of this genre is bland.

insinceredave (March 25, 2003)

You guys are going to make me weep!

insincere dave

Anonymous (March 25, 2003)

Thank you, thank you. Good to be here!

- Jonathan

maverick (March 25, 2003)

Everyone welcome our newest staff reviewer Jonathan on board! Yay for people who can actually write coherent reviews!


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