Reviews The Blood Brothers Young Machetes

The Blood Brothers

Young Machetes

The Blood Brothers are one of those bands that can get you into shit with people. Not that anyone should have to appease anyone else with his or her musical interests and fancies. But, lets be honest, there is a very pronounced dividing line between people who enjoy The Blood Brothers and people who detest them. One reason for such standoffishness toward the band could be that Johnny Whitney sings and screams in extremely high-pitched Jello-with-the-wah-wahs registers that has made some listeners react as if there are fingernails scratching a chalkboard on an endless loop - quite adversely, to put it lightly. On the other hand, it could also be Jordan Blilie's throat nullifying screams that set people astride against the band. It could also be the "sass-factor" that turns some people off from the band, as if having any sort of sass in a song is the end all, catalyst of destruction to creative chops and talent. The Blood Brothers have added and omitted elements from album to album and 2006's Young Machetes is no different. The new record finds the band going back to their simpler punk rock roots on some songs and expanding their signature sounds to new dimensions, some of which are more akin to melodies in Blilie and Mark Gajadhar's side-project Neon Blonde. But they still retain the signature Blood Brothers sound and Young Machetes is a return to form which easily topples 2004's lackluster Crimes, which attempted too outwardly to be poignant during the weight of the political climate of the time, and thus was met with mixed reviews.

Young Machetes however, feels different from past Blood Brothers' albums; it is a rebirth of sorts. Even the cover art is a departure, a sort of rendition of Edvard Munch's nowadays commonplace Scream painting (just check out that Nissan commercial). In contrast to the original colorful oil painting, the cover depicts a black and white picture of a female figure with her hands arched against the sides of her head with flesh toned paint over the areas of visible skin while most of her facial characteristics are scribbled over with manic Sharpie outbursts. This sentiment of hidden faces and a host of fucked up outside attributes is fitting for the urgent diatribes of the album's tunes. The songs themselves feel fresh, angrier and more experimental than past Blood Brothers' songs. The lyrics are extremely obtuse, and this rings true even if you are familiar with lead vocalist Whitney's decade long lyrical canon of word massacring. A lot of names are used throughout the record, and it seems to be very personal in terms of what the songs are about. The social commentary is still very present, with mentions of CEO's and money and corruption in apparent abundance. Crimes tended to be a macroscopic look at the world's faults while Young Machetes seems to be a more microscopic view into the smaller aspects of life and choices that make up the greater whole.

The Blood Brothers have always played fast; screaming post-hardcore with a hearty helping of sass, but Young Machetes takes a different path with the same modus operandi. The use of melody in their songs has always been present and on this record the songs are more melodic than ever. "Set Fire to the Face on Fire" starts off the album with a bass-heavy bang, and for its entire two minute, nineteen second length it proceeds to bubble and boil over with rhythmic urgency until the catastrophic conclusion stamps out the cinders created in a grand explosion that ends the song abruptly. Next up is "We Ride Skeletal Lightning" with its high ride guitar and Blilie/Whitney dual sing along, killer tune, very catchy melody. By the time the third song and now lead-off single "Laser Life" starts, it is clear that The Blood Brothers are just as focused on writing catchy tunes as screaming their hearts out - a trend that's become increasingly more apparent since 2003's Burn Piano Island, Burn. The next song "Camouflage, Camouflage" begins with an angry guitar followed by a slithering piano dance. For my money, this is the song that contains the best vocal delivery Whitney has ever barked out when he exclaims: "All the girls of Montreal smashing skateboards in the street / It's 4am and she's at your door with a suitcase, in a nightgown." The sass is also less apparent on this record than in the past, and by less apparent I mean that its still there, only muted-diluted by the serious tone of the album. The songs also vary quite a bit from track to track; the variety is good but sometimes jarring for a Blood Brothers album. For example, "Vital Beach" is an extremely fast paced song, which leads into the bouncy "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds." Experimentalism is also abound on Young Machetes, the albums last two songs "Street Wars/ Exotic Foxholes" and "The Giant Swan" are linked together to make up a laid back ten minute opus that hits a grueling intensity near the end.

Whatever your personal opinion may be, there is no denying that these five hard-working gents from the stormy state of Washington have conjured up some of the most frantic, angular and otherwise out-there records since they formed in 1997. Young Machetes follows in those previous records paths, only this time they focus more than ever on melody and structure. Yes, this album is their most accessible. Yet that hardly means its bad. On the contrary; it utilizes the best parts of what The Blood Brothers offer to create a unique romp through fifteen songs about how fucked up our world is. The way they relay their messages is the kicker, they are dispersed through metaphoric beat poetry and with the vitality of punk rock's declarative influence. This formula has worked for nearly a decade, and as the band continues to modify and evolve, their surprises continue to have strong footholds on what should be the shakiest of ground.

8.2 / 10Justin
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2006

8.2 / 10

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