It’s always been true of the Chop that we’re either late to the party or a very early adopter. In the case of the Thermals, it was the latter.
Your Chop got the inside word on the Thermals back in 2002 because of our pre-existing love affair with Kind of Like Spitting. We were way out in front of anything in which Ben Barnett was involved. Roommate & the Chop both love Ben so much that Roommate was even his point man in Baltimore for a few years there, booking shows and inviting KOLS to crash at the house (yes, we had other houses before the purchase of the North Baltimore Pleasure Dome).
So we got a good chance to see the Thermals the first time they ever came to Baltimore at the Charm City Art Space even before the release of More Parts per Million, and again when they came back to the Supreme Imperial. Back then, they were a four-piece with Ben on guitar, and Portland was a cultural second fiddle player to the other West Coast cities.
A lot has changed almost 10 years later. Now PDX has become a hipster mecca (even luring a few former Baltimoreans out to the left coast), and for our money, the Thermals were instrumental in making that happen. What started out as a sloppy, frenetic garage hobby-band has been growing and evolving ever since into one of the biggest and most recognizable acts in all of indie rock.
Their 2006 record The Body, the Blood, the Machine was a clear turning point in that evolution, marking a maturity of both sound and concept not present in their earlier work. It put them on the map, so to speak, winning universal praise from both critics and fans. It was recognized as one of the best albums to come out that year, and for the Chop’s money it’s on the shortlist of best records this decade.
Last year’s Now We Can See carries their sound forward picking up right where The Body, the Blood, the Machine left off, matching it track for track for high concept, musical excitement and lyrical calisthenics. Tonight’s show is a must see for any Thermals fan, as it’s a great chance to hear what sort of set list the band builds, now that it has so many building blocks to work with.
The Ottobar is at 2549 N. Howard St. 410-662-0069 Doors at 8pm, show at 9:00.