The Thermals, "Personal Life"

Album Review

It's hard to believe the Thermals haven't produced a hit single in their eight-year career. After all, the Portland, Ore., trio's alt-rock tracks are packed with more hooks than a Justin Bieber song. Even if the band never reaches the mainstream, "Personal Life" is a breathlessly enjoyable attempt at finding a larger audience. Aside from repeating its title 15 times, "I Don't Believe You" uses a "whoa oh oh" refrain and sugary verses to reach a raw pop simplicity akin to the Ramones. Elsewhere, frontman Hutch Harris lets his distinctly sanguine vocals simmer on "Only for You," and "You Changed My Life" ends the affair with a melody as optimistic as it is catchy. "Personal Life" would seem listless if its 10 tracks were all uptempo anthems, but back-to-back triumphs "Never Listen to Me" and "Not Like Any Other Feeling" slow the pace and let Kathy Foster's bass take the lead. The Thermals may not "change your life," as Harris promises on the opener, but they keep on issuing front-to-back fun albums like few other bands.