Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The body of water that appears in The Thermals song "I Let It Go," has no end. It just an inviting casket, really. It's borderless and confounding - spectacular in its scope. It's big and it's bullish, capable of wearing a man down. It's there to intimidate and to discourage in a way, but also, the salt and something untouchable in the water is there to buoy as well and Hutch Harris shows us this dilemma even if we're not talking about a real body of water at all. The body of water is a whale and it's an anchor. It's a haunting and depressing state of being where the person addressing us is torn between a continuance of a life and love not worth its salt and what's believed to be a choice that would result in imminent death, hence no resumption of anything, just a flat line. What we find after that desperate sensation and ultimate decision to just drop the love that was acting as a poisoned flotation device is that there was no imminent death waiting. Things changed, but the damned choice finds a way to fuck with the soul, making a body feel wracked and exhausted. The struggle that Harris has been mining for so long with Thermals material is the single most exhausting issue that any one of us is forced to take on, whether we let it keep us up at night or we just roll over: Even with conviction and smarts, passion and drive, most of us are at the mercy of other forces and people who act as the forces that feed us the basis, the scenery and the structure of all of our plotlines. It's not the easiest thing to get away from. We are made to believe in free will and yet we're steadied and saddled with many invisible reins that are tugged and influenced constantly. There's this notion of entrapment that Harris suggests in this suite of songs - which includes the unreleased new beauty "I Can't Let Go" - and what he does about it, what he liked to do about it and how it's an ever-changing relationship. The first line in this new song, which is a direct response to "I Let It Go," has Harris singing, "I lied when I was trying to tell my greatest truth - I can't let go, I can't let go," and we're right back in that treacherous and suffocating body of water that was thought to be dispelled, struck from the record. The distance that was wrung from the separation is suddenly shrunk back to its original state. That alone makes the prospect of what's next even more dire and disheartening, but then Harris writes in his descriptions that his thoughts on what he can and cannot handle fluctuate. Everything changes and this happens all the time. His capacity for all of this leaden deadness expands and shrinks, giving way and then taking over again. It's as if, no matter what someone's armed with, there's always a way to lose. Harris sings, in his urgent and dizzy way, "I held a mighty sword, but I was done in with the pen," and we're there with him, getting it, understanding exactly where the frustrations swallow us, where they constrict us but still keep us alive just to play with us.
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