The Body, The Blood, The Machine
Sub Pop, 2006
It’s surprising what $50,000 will and won’t buy these days. A Hummer, for instance. $50K is almost enough to buy you a Hummer, but in the event that you ARE Hummer, $50K won’t buy you a Thermals song for your tv commercial. Now that’s surprising. For an indie rock band in the year 2K7, selling your music to ad agencies is the new flannel shirt. Everyone from The Shins’ (McDonald’s) and Iron & Wine (M&M’s) to Of Montreal (Outback Steakhouse), Spoon (Jaguar), The Spinto Band (Sears) and M.I.A. (Honda) are doing it. Hell, I even heard a Magnetic Fields song in a dog food commercial the other day.
At least a few of those bands had the good sense to regret it afterwards, and yet, a little research on the products they’re shilling for shows the stigma associated with going commercial is so minimal that one might even mistake it for enthusiasm. So why then wouldn’t a virtutally unknown Portland band like The Thermals cash in too? According to lead singer Hutch Harris, “We thought about it for about 15 seconds, maybe…it was a really easy decision. How could we go on after soundtracking Hummer? It’s just so evil.” There you have it.
So who DID take the money? Badly Drawn Boy, it would appear. And over the years, Fischerspooner and Ratatat as well. Mark Mothersbaugh did too, but unlike the aforementioned bands, he and his Devo cohorts make no bones about what business they’re really in. At the rate Cat Power’s penning jingles these days, perhaps it’s time she did the same.
On the subject of “selling out”, Apples in Stereo says: “You understand it better as you get older,” but fuck that. I AM older. In fact, I’m their target market, and putting your hit song in an ad campaign still amounts to endorsement of a product and a corporation. Why not loan your cred to something you actually believe in for a change?
Now I’m not saying everyone should go out and buy The Thermals record solely on the pretext that they aren’t sellouts. “As you get older” you come to understand that even the most pricipled band might someday break your heart. But taking this small stand earned them my attention. Since I liked what I heard, it also earned them my $14 for their album, plus $12 for a ticket to their show at Studio B on Monday. That’s still a long way from $50K, but it’s a start. Care to join me?
Here’s Your Future by The Thermals