Portland, Oregon, Dry Paint Fizz, If That Ain’t Love, What Is?


Here’s how Hutch Harris counts off thrust: “One two three forward.” Foregone four notwithstanding, this isn’t a waltz. It’s the economy, stupid. The Thermals’ three Portland, Oregonians mostly play three chords at a time, no surprise, but when guitarist Harris occasionally hollers about social issues, he’s not lynching landlords. He obsesses over that other kind of economy, the conservative use of chords and words and choruses. The song I’ve quoted, “Forward”—like all 13 cuts on the Thermals’ half-hour-long second disc—is minimalist like Wire or the Minutemen. It also reminds me of an artwork at the Guggenheim’s recent show “Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated).” Wallpiece, by Karin Sander, is a large patch of painted museum wall, polished to a shine. Watching dry paint may not sound thrilling, but the Thermals do because they buff the cultural wallpaper that is 1-2-3-4 hardcore until they see themselves in it. This would not be so interesting if the band were narrow-pantleg punks. Harris and bassist Kathy Foster are bohos, not bozos; they once played twee-pop together in Hutch and Kathy. I’m not sure they’ve been more of a couple than that, yet Fuckin A outsexes the nuevo new-wavers with its dry-hump hum. But I’m forgetting—this is a threesome.