The Top 50 Albums of the 2000s – Now We Can See

Today I continue a series of posts dedicated to the best albums of the last decade, posting analysis of one album at a time.

45. The Thermals – Now We Can See

As far as concept albums go, Hutch Harris has nailed the formula.  There’s nothing vague or nebulous about the themes present in the lyrics of Thermals albums, whether it be the compelling tirade against politics and religion on The Body, The Blood, and the Machine or the analysis of love on the trio’s latest effort Personal Life.  As for Now We Can See, the first-person narrative is someone who has just recently died, and the observation is revelatory, unique, and brilliant.

Harris ponders how one would feel once dead through this narrative, and it makes complete sense.  The words reflect regret on things left unaccomplished, but overall, our protagonist is nonchalant and relieved, because, hey who cares, he’s already dead. Nothing to be done.  He’s free from the burden of life and the inevitable end.  The stark, subtle realization that there is nothing left to fear is prevalent throughout the album, and it conjures the brightest feeling of optimism ever felt on a post-punk collection of songs.

As for the music, well, the Portland trio has only gotten sharper and tighter in their feel-good power chord delivery and sing-along chants.  The title track is reminiscent of Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy,” and Kathy Foster’s bass lines and percussion (when recording, the Thermals only had two members – drummer Westin Glass would join for the following tour) provide solid accompaniment for Harris’ declarative tenor and guitar solo.  While “Liquid In Liquid Out” gives a clever commentary on the wasteful routines of a life passed, “When We Were Alive” rocks harder than anything the band has churned out since Fuckin’ A.

In a solid half hour, the Thermals will win your heart and banging head with simply structured rock and roll and, in contrast, an uplifting approach to a usually fearful topic.  And after you’ve memorized every note and word, go see them live.  It all makes life worth living.

The Thermals – We Were Sick

The Thermals – Now We Can See

The Thermals – Liquid In, Liquid Out

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