The fifth album from bubble-punk gnashers the Thermals is a perfect pop gambit for 1993. The spirit of Alternative Nation is alive and kicking in the tireless trio, who spent tour dates around 2009's Now We Can See sneaking covers of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, the Breeders and Green Day into their set. Naturally, Personal Life is their most We-Love-The-'90s LP to date, an instant Buzz Bin classic full of muscular, mid-tempo grunge-pop (recorded to tape!) that would fit neatly between Local H and Toadies on any given Beavis & Butt-Head episode.
Personal Life is ostensibly a concept album about love, loss and lies; and lead belter Hutch Harris is perfectly suited for the task, his nasal whine a perfect mix of snotty and vulnerable, cocky and sensitive. It's Cuomo self-doubt filtered through Cobain's pedal chain. Their sound is increasingly becoming major-label ready: the Elvis Costello jaunt of "I Don't Believe You," the bittersweet Blink-182-isms of "Never Listen To Me," the Pixies-meets-Grease 20th-century breakdown of "Only For You." But Harris maintains his scrappy lo-fi edge as he goes from overbearing asshole boyfriend to a needy husk by albums end. The melancholy near-emo of Personal Life is the brittle sound of a lovesick teen as filtered through the adult neuroses smart enough to micromanage it.