More Parts per Million (2003), the Thermals’ debut album, seemed to shout “no future” as definitively as any punk record this decade. It wasn’t that the hyper Portland crew posed like they were signaling the apocalypse–if anything their impatient yelps conveyed a puppyish hope. But because each song treated third chords as luxuries and were only millimeters away from becoming rants, the album was a model of such efficient minimalism that only a die-hard Fall fan would expect the formula to work twice without some tinkering. Yet they balanced the elements of the songs so precariously that any tweaking seemed likely to bring their whole house of cards tumbling down. Undaunted, they gave tinkering a shot on their 2004 follow-up, Fuckin A (Sub Pop)–shedding one guitarist to become a trio and recording in a bona fide studio instead of singer Hutch Harris’s house–but the songs remain the same, all 12 together clocking in at under a half hour. Maybe their sense of commitment becomes more palpable and admirable the more they risk redundancy; maybe it’s the way their unusually authentic wes hammer home their elliptical calls for assassination (take a guess) and humane pledges of solidarity among friends. Or maybe the crucial element is drummer Jordan Hudson, who can push Harris’s declamations forward with cymbals alone.
Turing Machine, who play second, are often tossed casually (if not altogether inaccurately) into the math-rock bin; on their new album, Zwei (Frenchkiss), they warm up their precise instrumentals by accentuating their Krautrock influences–some trick. ZZZZ opens. Thu 1/27, 9 PM, Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton, 773-267-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.