The Thermals haven’t lost much since their brilliant release Now We Can See a couple years back. The prissy Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla produces Personal Life, The Thermals third full LP. His effects on the album are obvious, and for the most part fail to improve the overall sound of the record. The rather cheesily named first and last tracks are called I’m Gonna Change Your Life and You Changed My Life respectively, and they don’t really get things going or close things out well. However, Personal Life’s energy as whole is good as the middle of the album is superb. It’s just as loud as everything else these guys have thrown at us and even a little bit more in tune. My personal favorites on Personal Life are I Don’t Believe You, Never Listen to Me, and Your Love is So Strong. On all three tracks The Thermals quit the crap and get down to business. Side note: generally speaking, taking the catchiest hook on your old album and slipping it in your new one doesn’t go over so well. Now We Can See and Your Love is So Strong have nearly identical openings.
When The Thermals bang their heads and smash on their guitars, they’re amazing. It’s when they try to write emotional ballads that they begin to falter. So why ballad-producer Walla was brought in I have no idea. It may be lacking a couple of hooks that Now We Can See brought to the table, but whatever. The Thermals will still rock your pants off.