First the snow. Inches and inches of snow; slowing London down to a crawl and forcing the price of humble grit up to previously unimaginable heights. Followed by the rain – in biblical proportions; leaving a surprisingly dapper looking London crowd to struggle heroically up the Pentonville Road on a cold Monday night to witness a set by Portland, Oregon's the Thermals.

Luckily their brash, taut performance makes all the strife worthwhile. What is more, next to the other acts on the bill, the shockingly mediocre Four of Five Magicians and the slightly better Calories, the Thermals look like musical pioneers, despite being a pop-punk band. Just seconds into opener 'Here's Your Future' the crowd are baying for more and trying to reach the ceiling; (even if the track is about a Christian fundamentalist nuclear war).

Now operating as a three-piece – after recording breakthrough album 'The Body, The Blood, The Machine' with just a core duo of guitarist/vocalist Hutch Harris and bassist Kathy Foster – there is an immediate energy while the group are on stage at the Lexington. While the Thermals have a nihilistic edge to their lyrics on record, live they are presented in such a dynamic and energetic way they become almost an affirmation. A creed for those present. With drummer Westin Glass also throwing salvos of snare noise into the melee, the Thermals don't miss the second guitarist they sometimes tour with, with the trip able to fill the modest venue with aplomb.

As the tracks tumble past thick and fast – each instantly recognisable as a Thermals song, but strangely never tiring despite resting on a similar formula - the group becomes more than the sum of its parts. While there are power chords a plenty, the group's cerebral – but deliberately vague – manifesto imbues the songs with more power and presence than would be expected. The joyful abandon, especially of Foster, also inspires the crowd to go to extraordinary lengths of celebration. One just wonders what the group will sing about now the Bush administration – a prime target for this and many other acts – has departed.

'A Pillar of Salt' and 'No Cultural Icons' are thrown in toward the end of a breathless set, with everything over as quickly as it begun. While they have quietly been building their fan base – allowing them to play in smaller venues such as this, while Green Day (of equal if not inferior talent) play stadiums – The Thermals have honed a sound all of their own out of the most common building blocks. Nothing too clever musically, and all the better for it.











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Commenting On: London, 10/2/2009 - Thermals, Lexington








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