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The Thermals: A Generation In 108 Seconds

Every day this week, Song of the Day will showcase a track by an artist playing the South by Southwest music festival. For NPR Music's full coverage of SXSW — complete with full-length concerts, studio sessions, blogs, Twitter feeds, video and more --click here. And don't miss our continuous six-hour playlist, The Austin 100, which features much more of the best music the festival has to offer.

Lots of bands play speedball punk rock, but The Thermals' members manage to infuse theirs with monster hooks and a surprising abundance of ideas. As massively enjoyable as it is, the band's remarkable 2006 album The Body the Blood the Machine bubbles over with conflicted views of organized religion; it's packed with legitimate food for thought, even as brains are getting thrashed along with the beat.

So leave it to The Thermals to sum up an entire generation's legacy of timidity and missed opportunities — "We closed our minds, we shut our traps / We built a house, the house collapsed" — and condense it into 108 blistering seconds. Rarely has a song said so much so efficiently, as frontman Hutch Harris spits out bravado ("You should have seen us in our prime") and regret ("We didn't try when we were alive") with the same red-faced ferocity. He could be speaking for a specific generation, or any of them at once, but every second of his lament begs to be played at deafening volume.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)