Thermals; Shaky Hands; Point Juncture, WA | Bottom Lounge | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Thermals; Shaky Hands; Point Juncture, WA Recommended Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Wed., April 29, 8 p.m. 2009

The songs on the THERMALS’ 2003 debut EP, No Culture Icons, are crackling bursts of purposely brainless no-fi punk, and front man Hutch Harris doesn’t dig too deep with their lyrics either—his snotty boast that “The Thermals don’t need drugs to have a good time / The Thermals need drugs just to stay alive” is pretty typical of the record’s tone. You’d never guess that the band would release a political concept album a little more than three years later: The Body, the Blood, the Machine is a tour de force, its focused outrage delivered by a paranoid sci-fi story line about America descending into fascist Christian theocracy, and its clean, catchy tunes have a great future ahead of them as documents of what it felt like to live as a liberal under president number 43. The new Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars) was recorded in August 2008, and even the prospect of a country without Bush seems to have sapped some of righteous fury that fueled the band’s previous efforts. Instead its punchy, punkified pop basks in a positive glow—this time the Thermals are leaving the talk of reeducation camps to people like Michele Bachmann. —Miles Raymer On their self-titled debut full-length, the SHAKY HANDS trafficked in pleasant but un­remarkable indie-rock jangle. But between then and their terrific second album, last year’s Lunglight (Kill Rock Stars/Holocene), the Portland combo added a second guitarist, Jeff Lehman, and transformed their sound—the tunes themselves haven’t changed much, but they’re delivered with a tense, tightly wound energy that makes them feel like they’re constantly about to fly apart. Subtle polyrhythmic percussion shakes up the brisk drum patterns, and up front the two guitars alternately play with and against the beat, overlapping single-note lines, whipsaw scrapes, and jagged licks that sometimes fit together like puzzle pieces and sometimes grind and skitter against each other. Singer Nick Delffs smooths out the bristly arrangements a bit with the drowsy tunefulness of his wobbly, somewhat braying voice, but I’ve heard he jumps all over the stage at the band’s reputedly frenetic live shows—something I have no trouble believing, given the music he’s got to juice him up. —Peter Margasak

Price: $14

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