If humanity is a species speeding towards its own self-induced extinction —and we are, FYI — then the apocalypse should at least have a good soundtrack. That’s where The Thermals come in, a band that make music for the end of the world, and they even have the courtesy to address some of the more trivial homo sapien concerns, such as those pesky break-ups, while they’re at it.
We Disappear opens to the sound of static fuzz and the jagged, infectious ‘Into the Code’, a song of aching post-millennial anxiety. The track concerns itself with humanity’s vacuous, self-obsessed mindset and our vain attempts to cheat death through technology: “Out of the past we’re finally here/Our secrets will last they will not disappear/Every story we sold, every lie we told”. And from such a strong opening, the raucous indie punk sound of We Disappear remains as solidly addictive as the soundtrack to a Nineties teen movie throughout.
The darkness of the themes is another aspect of the record that stays constant. ‘If We Don’t Die Today’ would make an apt song for the closing credits of a road movie about the apocalypse and ‘The Great Dying’ conjures imagery of a nuclear holocaust or some other biblically epic catastrophe: “The sky will turn to fire/The sea will turn to salt/Our memories will burn like we were never here at all”. Elsewhere the stomping ‘Hey You’ concerns itself with —surprise, surprise— death and our attempts to deny it. Hutch Harris sounds like a man at his wit’s end as he snarls, “Now the only sound left I can hear/is the sound buried deep in the ground/that is calling me near”. Backing vocals include screaming.
But why care about dying if life itself is not also a concern? So sandwiched between songs about extinction are several about the personal darkness that belongs to the living, namely relationship disintegration. ‘Thinking of You’ stands out as an infinitely catchy break up story. It’s a song that pops into my head every other hour and it’s damn good company, reflective yet energetic, with a sweetly sincere refrain: “And when I thought about love/I was only thinking of us/And when I thought of all the things I wanna do/I was only thinking of you”. ‘The Walls’ and ‘My Heart Went Cold’ are also wonderful songs of failed love from a distinctly anxious avoidant perspective.
We Disappear packs technological alienation, the threat of extinction and the breaking of hearts into catchy indie rock songs. You can hear the anxiety, claustrophobia and desperation pour from every fuzzy guitar, from every snarl. Yet it is also a remarkably upbeat sounding record, with infectious riffs, thumping drumbeats and an overall rich, joyous punk rock sound. Maybe it’s wrong to take pleasure in listening to the world being ripped apart but it sounds glorious.
8Len Lukowski's Score