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Thermals

The Thermals’ 2006 album The Body, the Blood, the Machine was a punk-rock concept album about an America tyrannized by a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Sound familiar? One online commenter described The Body as sounding like what Green Day wanted American Idiot to be. Maybe so, but more apt comparisons for the Thermals would be Superchunk and Ted Leo.

So, how do you follow up a concept album that does such a good job of describing the Bush years when you’re in the Obama years? If you’re Green Day, you keep following the progressive-rock path and go for something even more grandiose. If you’re the Thermals, you simplify.

The Portland band has been kicking along since 2002, burning through drummers and second guitarists until it became essentially a duo of Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster. (Westin Glass plays drums on tour.) Sometimes that’s a problem: a lot of Thermals songs sound as if they could use a lead guitarist or someone to provide musical complexity on top of all Harris’s furious guitar strumming.

On this year’s Now We Can See, Harris and Foster leave a lot more room in their sound. The title track centers on simple wordless sing-along and handclaps, yet it’s more exciting than many of the band’s guitar-bashing numbers. Elsewhere on the album, the Thermals may have stripped things down too much — look at the lyrics and you see that several songs are just slight variations of each other. You can hear the same problem in listening to the chord progressions and drumbeats. Maybe this is a transitional album at a transitional time in American history — which would mean that, once again, the Thermals have summed up an era.

THERMALS: The Casbah, Sunday, September 6, 7 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.

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The Thermals’ 2006 album The Body, the Blood, the Machine was a punk-rock concept album about an America tyrannized by a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Sound familiar? One online commenter described The Body as sounding like what Green Day wanted American Idiot to be. Maybe so, but more apt comparisons for the Thermals would be Superchunk and Ted Leo.

So, how do you follow up a concept album that does such a good job of describing the Bush years when you’re in the Obama years? If you’re Green Day, you keep following the progressive-rock path and go for something even more grandiose. If you’re the Thermals, you simplify.

The Portland band has been kicking along since 2002, burning through drummers and second guitarists until it became essentially a duo of Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster. (Westin Glass plays drums on tour.) Sometimes that’s a problem: a lot of Thermals songs sound as if they could use a lead guitarist or someone to provide musical complexity on top of all Harris’s furious guitar strumming.

On this year’s Now We Can See, Harris and Foster leave a lot more room in their sound. The title track centers on simple wordless sing-along and handclaps, yet it’s more exciting than many of the band’s guitar-bashing numbers. Elsewhere on the album, the Thermals may have stripped things down too much — look at the lyrics and you see that several songs are just slight variations of each other. You can hear the same problem in listening to the chord progressions and drumbeats. Maybe this is a transitional album at a transitional time in American history — which would mean that, once again, the Thermals have summed up an era.

THERMALS: The Casbah, Sunday, September 6, 7 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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