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  Now We Can See  
  The Thermals  
  Kill Rock Stars  
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Music's a funny thing. It all depends on the ear it's being piped into, at the end of the day.

I had heard of The Thermals since their 2003 debut, More Parts Per Million. I had given that record a couple of spins, and while it seemed enjoyable enough, I never came back to it. There was a catchy wildness to some of the songs, but nothing that captured and held my attention more than a few minutes, to the point where I forgot about the band entirely until 2009. The two releases of the intervening years never even got a spin. So I was a bit taken about when I picked up Now We Can See and was treated to pure, garage rock perfection.

This is the funny part, though. If you read the official critical canon of this band, you'll get a lot of talk about the early stuff being brilliant, but everything going downhill from there. Reviews of this album inevitably complain about the standard rock song structure, the "tired" feel, and the fact that between the time of their debut and 2009, the band actually matured and tightened up their approach. I just don't get that. This is a bloody brilliant album, one I've returned to repeatedly over the last three years.

Now We Can See is an album about dissolution. It's an album drenched in water and liquidity, a theme that stands in well for the existential process of growing older, growing wiser, and yes, growing up. It seems a shame that it's been relegated to the dustbin of hipster history for the primal sin of being adult. Lest there be some confusion, this is not a boring AOR album. From the opening kick of When I Died - a sweet story of inverse evolution gone wrong, our singer sheds his skin, crawls into the sea "so I could swim; yeah, so I could swim" only to drown when the gills fail to appear all the way through to the albums closer You Dissolve, this is a vital, blood-pumping slice of post-punk garage rock goodness. Clipped, close, three chord punk, for the most part. Driving beats off a minimal percussive set. A classic pop-punk three piece tearing through an eleven song set that rarely breaks the three minute barrier. (Notably, track five, At The Bottom Of The Sea which serves as the albums temporal and thematic hinge creeps into a near six minute lament)

Standout tracks include When I Died, Now We Can See, When We Were Alive, When I Was Afraid, Liquid In, Liquid Out, and How We Fade. If it occurs to you that I've just listed six of the eleven tracks on the album, you're getting the gist of the quality at play here.

As I said previously, I come back to this album over and over and over again. In three years, it's never fallen out of my MP3 shuffle, a fact that very few recent albums can lay claim to. Now We Can See is an album of young punks settling into middle youth, a theme that admittedly hits me in a soft spot of late, but nonetheless it still feels vital and alive and fundamentally worthwhile. It would be a shame if it were forgotten or missed.

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