The Thermals “How We Know”

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June 3, 2004


Hello, everybody! This is Andy Gesner and the staff from HIP Video Promo, here to give you a heads up on another great new independent band with a terrific video in tow. Today’s clip comes from The Thermals, a young group that announced their presence with authority on 2003’s immediate More Parts Per Million. The new album, characteristically titled Fuckin A, cleans up their frenetic sound ever so slightly, and presents the band as the heirs to the lo-fi/pop-punk crown worn at different times by the Buzzcocks, Guided By Voices, and Beat Happening.

It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon has become a reliable source of inspiring independent music. The Thermals have roots deep in the Portland scene: singer/guitarist Hutch Harris and bassist Kathy Foster had previously released the folky Hutch and Kathy LP, and drummer Jordan Hudson is known by experimental popsters for his work in the Operacycle. (Foster has also drummed for the All-Girl Summer Fun Band). In The Thermals, the trio puts aside their impulses toward skewed pop exploration and instead blasts off with concise, madly energetic, melodic punk rock songs.Fuckin A blows by like a freight train: not exactly polished but still awe-inspiring, powerful, metallic, a little dangerous, clattering forward with a menacing momentum, and gone in a heartbeat.

At 3:27, “How We Know” is the “epic” on Fuckin A: nothing else on the album exceeds the two-and-a-half minute mark. But this is no slowdown, change-of- pace, or mid-tempo ballad – it’s as furious and urgent as anything else on the collection. The only concession made to the track’s length is an arrangement choice. Instead of slamming his distorted guitar straight through the song, as he does elsewhere on Fuckin A, Hutch Harris sits out for the beginning of the verses. It’s a brilliant choice – it not only makes his fragmentary, evocative, unsettling lyrics easily discernable, but it turns the spotlight on the rock-solid playing of the rhythm section.

The group is a tight unit, as the “How We Know” clip makes clear. It’s a performance clip, and it captures some of the manic intensity, geeky charisma, and pure camaraderie of the Thermals’ live set. The personalities of the three members are on display in all their bold colors: Harris, all nervous energy, guarded optimism, and intelligence in action; Foster, playful and free-spirited, but strictly business when driving the song forward on her bass; Hudson, chaotic, mercurial, reckless, offering flashes of wry humor. Rarely are we given solo shots – this band is the sum of its component parts, with each member complementing the other two.

But it’s also a thinking man’s punk band, and this is a thought-provoking video. The band members play in front of projected images of themselves. Usually, the reflections mimic the actions and movements of the “real” performer. But frequently – and increasingly, as the video goes on – they don’t; as when Hudson double-takes when his video doppelganger upsets his drum kit in Keith Moon fashion. It can be difficult to tell whether we’re watching an image of a member, or just an image of an image. As the first-generation copy blurs into the refraction – and that refraction behaves more like an autonomous individual than a carbon-copy – the “How We Know” video subtly raises questions of representation, reproduction, and the nature of “reality” captured on videotape.

The Thermals may be wild, but they’re indisputably thoughtful. It’s worth noting that much of the rest of Fuckin A consists of songs that address, in Harris’s own fractured language, the troubled world situation. It would be wrong to call The Thermals a political band – they’re much too artful to write straightforward message songs – but it is accurate to suggest that this is one punk group with a powerful message behind the punchy guitar.

We’re very thrilled to be working once again with our dear friends at Sub Pop Records , an experience that never fails to bring us joy. We’ll be stocked up with CDs and other goodies to cater to all of your Thermals needs. If you need more info call Andy Gesner at 732-613-1779, or email

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