On The Body, the Blood, the Machine, the Thermals' third album, the band takes another step away from the inspired lo-fi racket of their debut, More Parts Per Million, and a giant leap further into politics. As they did on their previous album, Fuckin A, the band has streamlined their sound more and cleaned up the sonic mess that gave their debut such a dose of live wire electricity. Not that they've made a glossy pop record or any deal-breaking concessions to high fidelity; they just sound more professional and real. Besides, any raucousness or fire that has been subtracted from the musical presentation has been reinvested in Hutch Harris' insistent vocals and hot-to-the-touch politics. He takes on organized religion, conservative politics, war, and the general state of things in a yelping, near-hysterical voice that brings to mind Roky Erickson at times. Coincidentally, the comparison to Erickson makes a lot of sense. In the same way that Erickson's obsession with creatures, zombies, and two-headed dogs might put off listeners who don't share his mania, so too might fans of the Thermals' sound find Harris' polarizing views an obstacle to get past. You get the feeling they don't really care if they lose a few fans, though. Nobody who starts off a song ("I Might Need You to Kill") with the lyrics "locusts, tornadoes/crosses and Nazi halos/they follow, they follow" is looking to appear on TRL anytime soon. And it's not like the whole record plays out like a screed; there are still a couple of hooky indie punk tunes that will get the blood flowing. "St. Rosa and the Swallows," a heart-rending love/love lost song that rides a classic chord progression and Harris' loosest vocal into almost pop territory, is one of these. So is the pounding and melodic "Test Pattern." They provide a nice balance to the overtly political songs, and while they don't exactly throw open the blinds and let the sun shine in, they alter the gloom and doom just enough to make the record a success. With The Body, the Blood, the Machine, the Thermals haven't made another thrilling noisy gem like More Parts Per Million; they've made an inspired and inspiring, semi-grown-up indie rock record with more thought than thrills. There's no shame in that.