The first words and the first sounds on The Thermals' Desperate Ground are punchy: “I was born to kill.”
The song is called “Born To Kill” and it's accompanied by “The Sword By My Side” (“the last thing my enemies will see”), “Faces Stay With Me” (“the men I've ended / not forgotten to me”), and “Our Love Survives” (“it's why we fight”). Desperate Ground is a record about violence. Unlike some of the Portland trio's past work, though, there's no real commentary or political statement.
In an interview with SPIN, singer and guitarist Hutch Harris said, “It's a gritty, pulpy action film. 'Full Metal Jacket' is where we get 'Born To Kill.' Die Hard was a really big influence. The story of the record is one man against an enemy and the elements. Then there's 'Game of Thrones,' 'Lord of The Rings,' I really just like those worlds.”
And so, amid fuzzed out riffs and grungy power chords, Harris sings things like, “So I will love you when I can / When I can / Until they kill me where I stand / Where I stand.” Much like an action movies, it glorifies heroic violence. Hopefully we can avoid the same argument people have about action flick violence, because this record rocks regardless.
After the softer edges and slower songs of 2010's Personal Life, The Thermals have gotten back to the earlier sound. It's rough around the edges and they don't slow down, and there's a sense of urgency in every lyric, rhythm and riff.
If your more intellectual side is processing Desperate Ground, this could all get grating. The part of you that made fun of the overwrought emotions will come creeping out. But if you let your visceral side take it in, it's downright catchy and awesome.