It’s difficult to get excited about a concept album nowadays. This is the MP3 age, and the idea of listening to twelve songs by one artist about one thing seems like the sonic equivalent of running a marathon. On The Body The Blood The Machine, the Thermals have circumvented this problem by employing a much more time-tested tactic: writing a bunch of really good songs.
TBTBTM is an album-length indictment of religion, war, the government, and the blurred intersection of all three. The simplicity of the punk-driven songwriting and the bare, urgent honesty of vocalist/guitarist Hutch Harris’ delivery drive home the album’s political points with startling effectiveness.
And due to Harris and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Kathy Foster’s skillful hooks, it’s impossible to laud or dismiss the album on purely political grounds. The two standout tracks, “I Need You To Kill” and “A Pillar of Salt,” wash down their aggressively anti-religion messages with choruses so anthemic even the president they ridicule would forget about what’s being sung.
The Thermals have been on Sub Pop Records for most of their career, but the spotlight that many of their labelmates enjoy continues to elude them. If the God Harris seems so preoccupied with on The Body The Blood The Machine is a just one, the album will be the band’s long-deserved gold watch.