The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Thermals

The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006)

Sub Pop

The thought of the United States as governed by a fascist Christian state scares the living shit out of me. Really, it should scare the living shit out of most anyone.

Oh, wait...

In all seriousness, this is what the Thermals envision on their new album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. That and the "focus on the need (and means) to escape;" while not necessarily a concept album, Machine certainly seems to depict this wild scenario, assisted by less than subtle, but no less compromising artwork.

Besides that, Fugazi staple Brendan Canty recorded the album. Sounds great, right?


What made the Thermals so great on 2004's Fuckin A was their pure energy. I suppose it's hard to go wrong with a swear word in the album title, but that was it, really: straight up, fuzzed out, upbeat lo-fi punk songs with wild, original vocals. This is precisely what The Body, The Blood, The Machine lacks.

Absolutely dull and listless, the Thermals plod through 10 tracks about this God-controlled land set sometime in the not too distant future. Alright, so opener "Here's Your Future" is relatively reminiscent of that energy we all know the band is capable of harnessing once it kicks in, but that's it. Most everything else just sounds so disappointingly lame and lifeless -- isn't this supposed to be a scary state of affairs? Tired, tame lo-fi "power"-pop numbers just don't convey that at all. Lively keyboard blips in "A Pillar of Salt" give it a nice touch, but even there it's an incomplete effort.

It's a shame, too, because while the band is a bit vague in their descriptions of this holy land, I read them as being sung with such affection and aggression that their meaning would be conveyed perfectly; "Locusts, tornadoes / crosses and Nazi halos / they follow, they follow / / lashes and grins / ass-backwards medicines / they follow, they know" should be up-tempo, lively jaunts -- simply put, they're not. I guess if this was a concept album about a world where they've already bowed down to these Christian fascist leaders, they'd be right on.

I was really hoping for the Thermals to deliver another sleeper hit and knock everyone for another loop. They had everything set up to do just that -- they just forgot to accent the actual delivery of the presentation. What makes this disappointment all the more heartbreaking is that no one seemed to even motion towards Fuckin A when it was released. If the same happens for Machine, I have to begrudgingly admit that I can understand the reasoning.

A Pillar of Salt

Returning to the Fold