The Thermals rock The Bell House in New York

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Now We Can See, the new disk from The Thermals, is set to drop on April 7th via Kill Rock Stars. My hope, beyond getting to take in a great show, was to get a preview of the new album. But this would be a waiting game of sorts before the payout.

The show was set to start at 11pm. Upon arrival, the early show was still in full swing. The folks at The Bell House were kind enough to let everyone inside to escape the falling temperature, which was now hovering around or slightly below 20 degrees. After an hour wait and the quickest sound check I've ever heard, we were let into the main room. The only thing standing between this sold out crowd and The Thermals was the opening band.

Pretty & Nice
  • Pretty & Nice

Pretty & Nice took the stage about 12:15am and promised to play their set as quickly as possible. Fortunately, P&N are pretty good. Musically, they almost seem a patchwork of indie rock sub genres. There were pinches of XTC mixed with Ted Leo and sprinkled with noise; but the Leo hints may have really been Elvis Costello... Angular guitars and a spastic yet danceable rhythm section kept the crowd more than just interested. With the show over an hour behind schedule, P&N played one helluva set. They even won over a few people I overheard saying they had hoped the opening band wouldn't play at all.

The Thermals don't make grand entrances to the stage. They finished setting up their gear while singing and dancing along to Hall and Oats' "Maneater" and Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough". As soon as things were ready, they launched into Returning To The Fold from 2005's The Body, The Blood, The Machine. The crowd, now comfortably lubricated, was hanging on every word, every chord. There is something about this band that makes you fall in love with them, something that is almost intangible. It's a simple formula: loud guitars, endearing vocals, smart lyrics, catchy melodies, (mostly) fast songs, no filler. So many bands try and so few get it right.

The set was heavy on tracks from The Thermals' forthcoming album. The new songs don't seem to be as socio-political as their last album (The Body, The Blood, The Machine) but they are unmistakably Thermals. The band doesn't intentionally follow a format, they just do what they do best: loud guitars, endearing vocals, smart lyrics, catchy melodies, (mostly) fast songs, no filler. Six of the twelve tracks from the new album were played. Based just on hearing half this album live, I can say without a doubt that Now We Can See will make my "Best of 2009" list eleven months from now. The band also served up large chunks of both The Body The Blood, The Machine and 2003's More Parts Per Million. The energy of the crowd and band kept feeding off each other throughout the night. Every song was a sing-a-long psalm. After a blistering nineteen punk rock epiphanies (that included a cover of Nirvana's "Verse-Chours-Verse"), the band took a short, needed break. Upon hitting the stage again, they covered Nirvana's "Sappy" and The Breeders' "Saints". The closer was the band's quasi theme song, "Everything Thermals".

Yeah, everything Thermals

Straight from the pages of your journal

I know nobody's ever seen it

The Thermals know all your secrets.

There is something about this band that makes you fall in love with them.

Click on any picture in this post for a larger version.

Special thanks to Joe Price at Inland Empire Touring for making this show possible for me!

The Thermals
  • The Thermals

I flew into La Guardia on Saturday January 31st at about 2pm. The temperature was in the mid to upper 20s and slowly dropping. The Thermals were playing a late show at The Bell House in Brooklyn. How cold was it going to be when the show started at 11pm? I didn't care. I was in New York and was going to catch The Thermals play a one-off show before jumping the pond to the U.K. for a small tour.

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