By Alexa Salvato
The Thermals’ We Disappear starts out with messy, distorted electric guitar, quickly transitioning into catchy rhythm chords. Reminiscent almost of classic Breeders tune “Cannonball,” I was surprised when the lyrics were sharp and rhyming, a cool contrast to a guitar style most associated with the unintelligible and ambiguous lyrics of Nirvana, Pearl Jam or The Breeders itself. However, the album grew in a poppier vibe — whether pop-punk, alt-punk or pop rock is still to be determined — as it proceeded.
We Disappear is the seventh album of this Portland band that has been producing albums since the beginning of this millennium. And if the mention of Portland rings a bell when thinking about The Thermals, that’s not a surprise; it was the opening band for Bernie Sanders’ now famous Portland rally when the bird that landed on his podium stole the show.
After the first song, “Into the Code,” the two that follow are the most catchy tunes on the album, “My Heart Went Cold” and “Hey You,” which was also released separately on April 22 with “White Rabbit,” a song not featured on the album. “My Heart Went Cold” stands out with the kind of chorus I could imagine belted into a mic tipped toward the audience at a huge concert, going “But my heart went cold, this I know/ I pushed you away, a whoa oh oh/ I left my heat untold/I couldn’t keep you warm/ My heart went cold.”
The next few songs are perfectly good tunes, but I found the middle stretch of the album to be quite boring. The rhythm guitar is repetitive and the melodies are overly reminiscent of the stronger songs that both precede and follow them.
However, it could also be my superficial distaste for lead singer Hutch Harris’s voice. Unlike the powerful voices of other punk vocalists, Harris sings “always in the same boyish pop-punk yelp that renders his lyrics about 40 [percent] cuter than he probably intends them to be,” as Evan Rytlewski perfectly articulated in their review for Pitchfork. (And even though I’m the only high school theater geek in history who despises bands of the genre, his voice’s similarity to Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump and Brendan Urie of Panic! at the Disco certainly did not aid my opinion.)
Yet the album does rise from its downturn in the middle, ending with some short, romantic and endearingly genuine tunes. The antepenultimate “Thinking of You,” marked with harmony-laden vocals and sweet lyrics, stood out especially: “And when I thought about love/ I was only thinking of us/ When I thought of all the things I wanna do/ I was only thinking of you.”
As a whole, the album is a pleasant 29 minutes with some songs that vibe with the listener more than others. Although I’ll be happy to sing along to “Hey You” when it plays on the college radio station, all in all, We Disappear is not the best of The Thermals’ work.