“I’m gonna change your life”. So proclaims singer Hutch Harris on the opening of this – the Thermal’s fifth album. As much as we’d like Personal Life to fulfil said promise, over the course of the next 32 minutes, this Portland trio fall well short of their declaration.
Produced by Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, Personal Life is an exercise in tame North American rock. Plodding along without any real dynamic variation, songs like ‘Alone, A Fool’ and ‘Not Like Any Other Feeling’ help re-define the term “indie by numbers”’. Bereft of the necessary passion to cover such basic song structures and rudimentary musicianship, Personal Life is often ruined by its own indifference.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point, that when The Thermals actually sound like a band who give a proverbial, such as on 2006 album The Body, The Blood, the Machine, they are capable of producing songs that fizz and crackle like The Buzzcocks’ finest. On current outing Personal Life it’s left to lead single ‘I Don’t Believe You’, to provide the record’s solitary thrill.
Undeniably addictive in its simplicity, in the space of its two minutes 30, ‘I Don’t Believe You’ beats you over the head with its chorus, hinting at the LP that could have been. Track eight ‘Your Love Is So Strong’ also emerges as a likeable piece of power-punk balladry. However, these brief interludes aren’t enough to deflect from the album’s overwhelming filler.
In future the Thermals might consider keeping their Personal Life to themselves.