The Thermals haven't shied away from political and religious content in the past, but The Body The Blood The Machine finds them diving in headfirst, creating an album steeped in concept and conspiracy. Envisioning the United States as fascist Christian state (which some would argue it's not too far from now), lyrically the disc moves back and forth between figuring out methods of escaping the regime and flat-out just trying to get by.
Musically, the album is quite a bit different than past efforts by the group as well. Despite the departure of their original drummer, the group soldiered on as a duo (Kathy Foster and Hutch Harris) in creating the release, splitting up rhythm duties and adding touches of keyboards and organ to the mix (which was recorded by Fugazi's Brendan Canty). At over thirty minutes in length, this newest effort is also their longest and most varied, moving through some more layered, slower tracks to offset the more blistering moments.
Opening with a quiet, warbly church organ sound, the opening track "Here's Your Future" soon romps into more ballistic passages, and the arm-pumping song is easily one of the best things the group has ever done as Harris spits out his lines and the group dials things down just the right amount in places while ripping off firey guitar solos in others. "I Might Need You To Kill" follows, and despite taking the tempo down a notch, is still plenty juicy as thick guitars and bass chug out huge riffs over pounding percussion while Harris drops some of the most conspiratorial lyrics on the album.
"A Pillar Of Salt" drops some playful analogue synths into the mix and it works like a charm as the group again goes on the musical attack, rifling through a pop-punk barrage that's hard to deny. From there, the album slows down a bit again, and the group tries out a few new things, including a near-ballad in "Test Pattern." At over four minutes apiece, the last three songs on the release are easily the longest trilogy of tracks the group has ever done, and they also provide a good glimpse of just how different the disc is as one trudges with wave after wave of slow pummeling guitar while another (the outstanding "Power Doesn't Run On Nothing") keeps a relentless pace throughout while the album closer peels back some of the buzzy guitars and reveals something a little more spacious before dissolving into guitar feedback. As a whole, The Body The Blood The Machine is a bit more inconsistent than Fuckin' A, but at the same time has some of the best songs in the groups discography and some of the better arrangements well. If you're not worried about getting a little political, this is some fun stuff.