The Thermals: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

One punk-rock subset has always cultivated a decadent vibe, but the scene that produced Sid and Nancy has also yielded unassuming bands like the Thermals, who played Wednesday night at the Black Cat. If this Portland trio owes more to the Ramones than Pete Seeger, its ditties have an earnest simplicity that suggests folk music.

Singer-guitarist Hutch Harris has acknowledged that the Thermals's new album, "Now We Can See," was conceived as more pop-oriented. Yet such songs as that album's title track, with its sing-along "oh way oh oh" vocal hook, have a hootenanny quality. That was more even pronounced on stage, where the band's spare instrumentation was often secondary to the homespun harmonies of Harris and bassist Kathy Foster.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The spare guitar parts fluttered or pulsed, sometimes vanishing altogether. Harris did end many numbers with rippling electronics, but the bodies of the songs weren't so augmented, and sounded even more direct than on CD. Stripped to rhythms and melodies, "I Let It Go" revealed a country flavor, while "You Dissolve" recalled '50s rock-and-roll. Even songs from the band's edgier previous album, "The Body The Blood the Machine," notably the neo-Biblical "Here's Your Future," had a folky quality.

Playing nearly two dozen songs in slightly more than an hour, the Thermals didn't show a lot of range, or even many tricks to vary their modest style. What sustained the set was mostly drive, stoked by drummer Westin Glass and embodied by the head-bobbing Foster. What the Thermals lacked in artifice, they offset with vitality.

--MARK JENKINS

By David Malitz |  May 14, 2009; 12:09 PM ET Live Last Night
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