The Blood Brothers, a punk band from Seattle
(Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney on vocals,
Cody Votolato on guitar, Morgan Henderson on bass,
Mark Gajadhar on drums plus Whitney himself on keyboards), virtually invented a new style with the progressive/melodic thrash of
This Adultery is Ripe (Second Nature, 2000), reissued in 2002.
Rescue (another monster vocal duet),
The Face In The Embryo,
the highly emotional Mutiny On The Ark Of The Blood Brothers,
Jordan Billie Pets The Wild Horse's Mane,
Marooned On Piano Island,
This Adultery Is Ripe,
Time For Tenderness,
March on Electric Children (Three One G, 2001) refined the concept
with chaotic punk-rock numbers
via cabaret piano, sampling, tape manipulation and crisp production.
Their hyper-active hardcore style relied on nuclear guitar attacks,
terrifying rhythm, psychotic vocal barrage and hysterically convoluted dynamics.
Birth Skin/Death Leather,
Meet Me At The Waterfront After The Social,
March On Electric Children!,
New York Slave,
Kiss Of The Octopus,
Mr. Electric Ocean,
Junkyard J. vs. The SKin Army Girlz / High Fives, LA Hives,
The energy is still intact on
Burn Piano Island Burn (ArtistDirect, 2003),
which boasts more cohesive bacchanals and more focused ranting
(the savage music-hall of Fucking's Greatest Hits,
the breathless Six Nightmares At The Pinball Masquerade,
the deranged boogie of Ambulance Vs Ambulance,
the clownish God Bless You Blood Thirsty Zeppelins!,
Cecilia And The Silhouette Saloon)
next to reckless stylistic chameleons such as
Burn Piano Island Burn (that starts out like pure hardcore slam-dance, then leaves room for rap-like tirades over funk-metal jolts and electronic noises, and finally ends on a completely different quasi-country tempo),
Every Breath Is A Bomb (with a catchy refrain and even a Queen-like piano progression and ska guitar)
and closer Shame (that eventually secretes the one singalong on the
album and even engineers an anthemic crescendo).
The vocal interplay of Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie is a first in the
history of music: one emits all sorts of explosive noises (his high-pitched
cry is more devastating than a distorted guitar riff), while the other tries
to make sense of the lyrics.
Very few vocalists can scream out of their head like Whitney. Five seconds of
his singing can raise even the most mediocre song to the status of terrifying
All in all, this was one of the most important punk-rock albums of the decade.
Cody Votolato is also the second guitarist of Seattle's Waxwing, the band of his brother Rocky.
Unrelenting, the Blood Brothers unleashed another maelstrom of sounds and
words on Crimes (V2, 2004). Theirs is still music gasping for air.
The instrumental rock barrage and the twin vocal attack cause widespread
panic: (Feed Me To The Forest, with atonal piano,
album standout Trash Flavored Trash, with vocals and guitars cooperating in maximizing the riff effect,
Teen Heat, a close second with one voice basically satirizing or insulting the other in a crescendo of vocal effects,
Celebrator, a jump-blues for the "emo" age,
and especially Beautiful Horses, the shortest one but also the most visceral and epileptic one).
However, the band also crafts more tortuous and moodier compositions:
the ballad of sorts Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret,
the shapeless Wolf Party,
the confused and sentimental Devastator.
The voices are not quite as frightening as they used to be, although they
achieve the effect of shrieking cats in Peacocks Skeleton with Crooked Feathers,
and stage a rapid descent into psychotic mumbling by the Prince-like falsetto that opens Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck,
and, quite simply, yell satanically in the sinister My First Kiss at the Public Execution.
This album does not even come close to the intensity and rage of Burn,
and stumbles a few times on half-baked ideas. However, it does concoct a
better integration of the disorienting elements (whether electronic or
atonal or plain acoustic). And at least two members,
Cody Votolato on guitar and Mark Gajadhar on drums, if not three (Whitney
on electronics), have matured into virtuosi of their instrument.
Johnny Whitney and Mark Gajadhar also released an album under the moniker
Neon Blonde, Chandeliers in the Savannah (2005), that wed the Blood
Brothers' aesthetics to the ballad format and to dance beats.
Whitney singing infectious melodies is a contradiction in terms, but it works
wonders in Headlines. In the meantime Gajadhar lays down the
disjointed dance music of Crystal Beaches Never Turned Me On.
The sprawling (by their standards) Young Machetes (2006) took a massive stylistic detour, running the gamut from
the mid-tempo panzer nightmare Set Fire To The Face On Fire
to the martial Lift The Veil Kiss The Tank.
1 2 3 4 Guitars achieves a lot with just falsetto and congas, and little of their punk fury.
A couple even flirted with pop music:
the catchy and bouncy Laser Life (almost danceable, with almost regular vocals) and Spit Shine Your Black Clouds, with a melodic progression a` la Apples In Stereo.
Very few songs (Nausea Shreds Yr Head, Johnny Ripper) stuck to the old paradigm (and they are all relegated to the end of the album):
Just like on Crimes, the most intriguing constructions are the ones that
swing wildly from one extreme to the other one.
We Ride Skeletal Lightning is the prime example of how the band can blend
creative rhythm, nerve-wracking guitar and overwhelming vocals.
Camouflage Camouflage ranges from frenzied hardcore to psychotic cabaret to decadent ballad with strings to anthemic hard-rock.
In two minutes You're The Dream Unicorn boasts, among other things, a lightning-speed refrain and fractured industrial drumming.
The last two pieces were also the longest ones and the "calmest" ones,
Street Wars Exotic Foxholes and Giant Swan, two odd psychodramas
that seemed to drain the Blood Brothers' music of all its energy.
The visceral nonchalance of the project matched past artistic nightmares, but
at this point the direction was totally undefined.
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