1/2 (out of 5)
I really do appreciate a good concept record—Lifter Puller's Fiestas and Fiascos would be on my Top 10 Records of All Time list, if I ever bothered to make such a list—but it's getting increasingly difficult to be impressed by such a thing. Maybe it's Green Day's fault for such laughable attempts, or maybe it's our society's obsession with the song over the album, but it feels pointless to even try crafting a concept record in 2013. Regardless, the Thermals give it a go with their latest, Desperate Ground.
Desperate Ground definitely has a concept, loosely wrapped up in destruction-obsessed songs like "Born to Kill" and "The Sword by My Side," but it almost goes unnoticed on the first couple listens. The Thermals have a very specific sound, and I love them for it, but that same crunchy, pogo-pop noise is carried from song to song without too much fluctuation.
Without palpable, dynamic musical shifts to bring any extra emotion to Hutch Harris's urgent vocals about a killer, it's hard to get sucked into any story line. As a record, it sounds great; as a story, it feels thin. Desperate Ground does get awesomely theatrical, though, in the final anthem, "Our Love Survives," which really would make a great closing song for a punk-rock play.