Thunderbirds Are Now! do not seem to have a setting beneath frantic. The dial seems to turn from spastic to frenetic to intense to frenzied to furious, all with subtle variations and execution. Yet the band has a little fun teasing the listener with first track “Panthers in Crime,” opening with a bouncy, folky acoustic introduction that lasts for a minute or so, suggesting that maybe, perhaps, their trademark dancepunk sound won’t be rearing its head. Just a few seconds further, however, and it does. Yet the punk sound that erupts here is much more expansive and dramatic than that of their previous records. “Panthers in Crime” is among the band’s most accomplished songs to date, immediately displaying some growth since the Detroit group’s 2005 effort, Justamustache.
With tracks like “Panthers in Crime,” Make History presents itself in the best way an album should—familiar, yet more confident, and even a little more epic. To wit: “The Veil Comes Down,” at first a quirky, synth-fueled indie pop track, yet an anthem at heart, rocking furiously (as you may remember, that is one of their settings). Similarly, “We Win (Ha Ha)” charges forth with an urgency that only Thunderbirds Are Now! can muster up, and with a radio-friendly catchiness about it as well. This song may be a little too good to be the next hit single for the masses, but it certainly contains all of the elements of a great single, insistent and memorable chorus notwithstanding. “Opens Us Up” is one of the band’s highest achievements in awesome, particularly the “whoa-ohs” during its fists-to-the-air opening.
After the initial impact of the first four flawless tracks, more variation, and with that more weirdness, finds its way on the album. “Why We War” throws in some sci-fi keyboards during the chorus for spooky effect, and “Sound Issues/Smart Ideas” is as close to a pure dance track as the band has ever come, though with all of the jagged guitar assault that comes with a TAN! track. The nearly straight-up rock of “Sleeping in the Lion’s Mouth” doesn’t work quite as well, primarily because it’s a little too…sigh…normal. “Shake Them Awake” is similarly straightforward, but much more in the vein of punk rock, making it a welcome return to high speed rabble rousing.
The closing melodicism of “(The Making of) Make History” finds the album ending in a similar fashion to how it began: solid, powerful and certainly memorable. Rather than merely shaking us until our knees buckle, as they did in the past, Thunderbirds Are Now! are crafting better songs. And it just so happens that these mostly impressive songs will also leave one exhausted from the non-stop dance frenzy. Make History might not quite be the band’s masterpiece, but is certainly evidence that it might not be far off.
Enon – High Society
Les Savy Fav – Go Forth
Supersystem – Always Never Again
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.