The Thermals have taught us all what to anticipate from them musically: punchy pop/punk tunes fueled by adrenaline, booze, and weed and punctuated by Hutch Harris’s staccato vocals and earworm melodies. Their latest doesn’t stray from this formula, instead reveling in one of the first solid lineups the band has had to date with newest drummer Westin Glass and a ratcheting back of any experimental teasings that wandered into the last few albums.
What is new is the album’s theme: an exploration of the splendor and acrimony of love. The emphasis is on the latter as Harris explores out the harm that people do to one another in relationships. “How can I measure my length?/Where can I gain my strength?”, he sings on the swirling “Power Lies”. The answer comes right from the title: misleading those you are trying to bed seems the best solution. And while the song may be called “Your Love Is So Strong”, the irony lies in the lyrics as it melts in the rain, crumbles to dust, and “cracks at the slightest touch.”
It isn’t always so bleak, though. Harris does manage to let a few gooey sentiments seep out of his fevered imagination, but playing the darkness of his lyrics against the bright blasts of the band’s music is what gives Personal Life its loudest ring of truth.