Do all punks go to heaven? The Thermals' third record is a spiritual crisis set to sonics, a concept album that narrates the most basic fables of Christianity. But the real mystery isn't in the heavens, or the heaviness, it's in singer Hutch Harris's distorted howl: Does he believe in the faith he dissects? Either way, the result is aggressive, tender and sometimes hellishly funny ("Here's Your Future" recounts Noah's ark blithely with, "God said here's your future/It's gonna rain"). The Body is less immediately engaging and more languidly paced than 2004's Fuckin' A, which rode hard with thrilling energy but vague content. Now the Thermals sound introspective and burdened; with the exception of "An Ear for Baby," which is fuzzy and tedious, every track moves brightly but feels enormously sad. Surf-rock influence, a new revelation, subdues the mood and lends a realistic, sophisticated interpretation to the content coincidentally suggesting the true modern function of faith. The album ends, hauntingly, with "I Hold the Sound," a wrenching acceptance of the apocalypse that still insists music will survive. In it, the Thermals' force also rings unshakable. Praise them.
Stacey K. Anderson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.