The Thermals Desperate Ground Album Review

The Thermals are back with their sixth album set for release on April 15. Desperate Ground sees the band join forces with Saddle Creek for the release.

Desperate Ground was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Hoboken, NJ. Agnello. The Thermals completed the record and evacuated the studio just hours before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey meaning the band were literally on ‘Desperate Ground’.

The Thermals Born to Kill

Still from Born to Kill video

Lyrically, Desperate Ground is a brash and irresponsible ode to human violence, a black celebration of the inevitability of war and death. A dark and yet joyous affair, the album tells the tale of a lone rogue in the night. One man, one path with an unceasing urge to destroy. Desperate Ground reveals the torture, both mentally and physically, humans can suffer when they stray from what society expects of them.

Desperate Ground is a raw album, it has an energy in it that sets the songs alight. The Thermals sound scratchy, raw and refreshed on this record, partly due to the use of distorted vocals. This effect features throughout the album causing the listener to feel distant from the man and his urge to destroy. All the vocals sound particularly angry and distraught.  It creates a barrier between subject and listener which only adds to the mystery of the man and his dark, haunting thoughts.

Although there isn’t necessarily a bad track on the album, the whole record does merge into one long song. Musically, there isn’t much difference between the songs meaning you become a passive rather than an active listener.

The Sunset and I Go Alone are the best tracks on Desperate Ground purely based on their lyrical content. The Sunset has lyrics that captivate the listener from the moment the song begins, “I am never alone/My shadows are closer I need them to be/I keep them with me/I am never afraid/My shadows are close I am safe when they stay/They whisper the way…” These lyrics highlight human kind’s flaws when it comes to holding onto their past and regrets. These lyrics tell a story and allow the listener to develop the crazy perhaps schizophrenic character in their own head. This is probably one of the most lyrically satisfying songs on the record.

I Go Alone is another fantastic narrative expelled through brilliant thought-provoking lyrics, “Each night I dream of a road/It points one way/I know where it goes/A cold dark horse lies at the end/You have to leave so leave me my friend/I’ve been waiting for this all of my life/My day is finally here…” The lyrics in these two songs really hint towards the dark side of The Thermals and their ability to create interesting characters in songs. They help to bring the story behind the album to life and get the listener thinking about what happens to man kind when they defer from the path they are told to follow.

Desperate Ground is a great album full of energy and enthusiasm. If you’re looking for a rough and ready album to enjoy, this is it. Desperate Ground is out on April 15 through Saddle Creek.


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