Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the thermals...

I was listening to a new punk rock album during my morning commute today. It was an album I popped in based on a song I heard and enjoyed on the radio. The first song on the album is an awesome aural kick in the pants, but as I listened more closely to the lyrics, I feared I had been duped into listening into a Christian punk band:

God reached his hand down from the sky
He flooded the land then he set it on fire
He said, "Fear me again. No, I'm your father.
Remember that no one can breathe underwater"

So bend your knees and bow your heads
Save your babies, here's your future
Yeah, here's your future

Thankfully, as the first song transitioned into the second, my fears were mollified by the obviously tongue-in-cheek, semi-bitter lyrics of a disillusioned, estranged Christian like myself:

Locust tornadoes, crosses, and Nazi halos
They follow, they follow

Ashes and friends, ass-backwards medicines

They follow, they follow

You know I might need you to lead

And part the sea so we can cross if they follow us still

I might need you to kill

Every room and every human at will

The album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, is the 2006 release from The Thermals. And while each song continued to rock my TwinSix sock, the lyrics became muddied as my mind became distracted by the thought: can an album be enjoyed despite one's fundamental issues with the lyrics?

What if the album in question had continued in the vein of God-rock while still maintaining a punk-like sound (a la MXPX... though their sound arguably sucks)? Could I continue to listen to the music, enjoying the overall experience by ignoring the meaning behind the words?

Sigur Ros is a group I enjoy, and they sing in a completely made-up language. The overall experience is unbelievably gratifying - like the speakers of my stereo are making sweet, sweet love to my ear canal. I could name many other bands I enjoy whose lyrics are either ridiculous, nonsensical, or meaningless - but for some reason, the idea of being fed Zealotry via music is unsettling... nauseating even.

Thankfully, with The Thermals, I don't have to worry. To me at least, they are true blue punk rock. The instrumentation comes together flawlessly. The lyrics are an oftentimes cynical reflection on the state of the US government, the lack of separation between church and state, and the hypocrisy of organized religion.

Most importantly, they provide to their listener the overwhelming and indescribably need to rock out.


topher said...

The Thermals are great live--they pump their energy straight out into the crowd.

For an inverse of the situation you present, take the second track of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (a perennial indie rock fav). It starts with Jeff wailing "I love you jeeeeesus chriiiist" over and over again.

The intro is so preposterous that I always assumed it was a joke until someone suggested he might be serious. Now I'll always wonder.

Ah well, it's still an amazing album.

rbilson said...

Yes, it's absolutely fine. I totally love Refused even though they are/were total communists. I completely disagree with the bands entire premise, but, I can still appreciate their point of view and enjoy the music.

sam said...

I love that album but I think of the lyrics as more angry and pointing out that the bible is full of pretty fucked up stories.

For me, I like to feel the lyrics. It's hard for me to listen to misogynistic lyrics.

Anonymous said...

You may already know, but you can listen to Sigur Ros' new upcoming album via free live streaming from their website. I'm a big fan. http://www.sigurros.com/main/streaming.asp
I've been listening to it at work. Pretty sweet. -BLRich

Zach said...

I concur, sigur ros is sweetly entrancing. I haven't heard of this new band hough, I'll have to find them......