On Personal Life, the fifth full-length from Portland indie-pop-punkers The Thermals, it’s quickly evident that the band is giving it a little different twist this time around. Rather than come out of the gates with guns blazing, frontman Hutch Harris and bassist Kathy Foster have toned things down to the mid-tempo. Instead of angrily spitting incendiary fire, Harris just sorta casually spills his guts about love and relationships. The guitars are still fuzzy and Harris’ vocals as strained as ever, but Personal Life lacks much of the frenzied urgency that made the band’s last few records so great. The songs are strong but slower and more tempered and (almost) tragically consistent. Maybe it’s the Chris Walla influence, but there were a few times when I almost thought I was listening to early Death Cab. There are only a handful of moments on the album where The Thermals genuinely sound as if they’re about to tear down the walls, but those moments never really get past a simmer and it is rather anti-climactic. I’ll be honest that after their last few albums (Now We Can See and The Body, The Blood, The Machine in particular) this is a little disappointing if only because we know what The Thermals are capable of. I don’t dislike this record at all, in fact, it’s actually grown on me. I just kinda miss the faster, noisier version of the band I’d grown to love.
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