Desperate Ground

Desperate Ground

The Thermals achieve the elusive. With just three members, they capture the raw beauty of glorious punk rock and beyond. Their sixth album, Desperate Ground, continues their streak of inspiration. Recorded in Hoboken, N.J., with John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) and completed hours before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey, Desperate Ground centers on a primordial power that never lets up as it tells a tale of violence, sung from the point of view of a lone deviant out only to destroy. "I was born/To kill," sings Hutch Harris on the opening track in a voice not far removed from another grand indie storyteller, The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle. The desperation in Harris' delivery adds a crucial nuance to the melodies; it raises the songs to a level of transcendence. This entire conceptual piece does its damage in 26 minutes, with the album's longest song, "I Go Alone," clocking in at three minutes and 13 seconds. The sound never wavers. Unlike on previous Thermals albums, the approach here is strictly power chords and punchy vocals, with only tempo shifts for variety. It's a uniform, fulfilling experience.

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