Review : Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
PitchforkWhen we last left our heroes, the Blood Brothers were poised on the brink of success, torn between unpredictable hardcore stylings and a more melodic, less tortured application of their squealy double-frontman lineup, as best exemplified by "Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck". They went into in the studio with the engineer from previous LP Crimes along with Fugazi's Guy Picciotto to record their follow-up, releasing a meager EP in the meantime to prolong the suspense-- what would be their next move? Where might Picciotto take them?
Turns out that instead of choosing between seducing or screaming at their audience, they found a much less interesting middle ground. Young Machetes is half metal band, half high-school musical, with unpredictable transitions, two-minute songs stretched to the limit of composition, and a few pop concessions that pale in comparison to the softer side of Crimes, bones tossed to a mainstream audience by a band that's far too strange to be this famous. Seriously: The sweaty industrial heave of "Set Fire to the Face on Fire" is a rousing opener, but given Johnny Whitney's newfound inclination to sing instead of scream, it sounds like a marching band swapping their instruments for food processors while being fronted by Steven Tyler. This is nothing compared to "Camouflage, Camouflage", which juxtaposes a sputtering rhythm and rapid-fire speak-singing with a swooning blue-spotlight vocal/piano solo from Whitney-- for the listener who likes to mosh and then cry immediately afterward-- or "You're the Dream Unicorn," a Freddie Mercury nightmare that matches an impressive hardcore breakdown with a multi-tracked vocal cavalcade all wailing (you guessed it) "you're my dream unicorn" at once. There's no way these guys don't have a sense of humor about their music, and for getting as far as they have and making a profoundly weird record that someone in some record store will put in the "Metal" section, I admire them.
But that doesn't mean I want to return to anything on Young Machetes. The heavier quick-change songs push several different buttons at unexpected moments, but the more straightforward songs, the ones that should glue the record together, flounder. "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds" is a sassy staccato strut that sounds like a youth culture-co-opting facewash jingle, and "Lazer Life", an electric piano boogie that tries to teach the kids in the pit jazz hands before tossing in its happy-shiny chorus and instrument-smashing bridge together like a child clipping the ends from jigsaw pieces to make the puzzle fit....full text
SputnikmusicAlready named one of Alternative Press' Most Anticipated Albums of 2006, Young Machetes was recorded at Robert Lang Studios in the band's native Seattle with the help of producers Guy Piccioto (late of Fugazi) and John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip, Blonde Redhead), who produced the band's acclaimed 2004 release Crimes.
The Blood Brothers' previous effort Crimes-described by Vice as "sex at the speed of sound" and moving URB to declare "Any hope for America's young starts here"-pushed the envelope of the Blood Brothers' sound further than ever while resulting in the band's most focused work to date. With the surprisingly sing-along anthemic chorus of single "Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck" and the blistering groove of "Teen Heat," the album earned rave reviews from magazines ranging from STUFF (who gave the album 4-stars) to BLACKBOOK to SPIN to RESONANCE.
But how did their 5th album turn out?
The Blood Brothers are: Jordan Blilie, Mark Gajadhar, Morgan Henderson, Cody Votolato, and Johnny Whitney.
1. Set Fire to the face on fire
The opening song of the album begins with the later significant 3 yelling chants "Fire!" which turn into a wild mix between electronics, drums and guitars. During the "set fire to the _ on fire!" the song gets pretty heavy and angry and synths kick in at the 1.10 mark. The vocals are pretty crazy and obnoxious, so it's still the old Blood Brothers style that we all love. After 1.45 minutes the song turns into a pretty insane part with loud techno beats for 15 seconds before we get a very loud and angry ending sequence. Overall I really loved the song, pumped me up and made me hungry for more. 4.5/5...full text
PunknewsWith Young Machetes, the Blood Brothers may have officially proved that album after album, they will consistently bring challenging, innovative thoughts to the table that actually come out on the other end as awfully tight, intense and enjoyable songs.
What this tends to mean is hyperactive, jagged, noisy fits of chaos that are yet always under the band's control. None proved it further than 2004's Crimes, which simultaneously featured some of the band's most ambitious and accessible songs (i.e. "Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck). It's quite an amazing thought that the band had to tone it down from 2003's Burn, Piano Island, Burn simply after realizing that that album's songs were so complex, they were challenging to the band to play them live. Thus you have Crime's restraint and more simple yet greatly effective songwriting. However, some sort of nostalgic tick must have burrowed beneath the band's collective skin, because Young Machetes contains some of the Blood Brothers' most downright intense and complex moments in their career -- even more so than Burn.
First, however, this intensity is conveyed in mid-tempo, caterwaul car crashes, like opener "Set Fire to Face on Fire." The Blood Brothers have always been that rare band that could repeat the song title -- or at least, a noticeable portion of it -- ad nauseam and avoid it sounding even remotely cheesy ("Burn, Piano Island, Burn," "USA Nails," "Crimes"), and they take full advantage of that smug swagger here as well as tracks like "Camouflage, Camouflage," "Vital Beach," "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds," "Rat Rider," and "Huge Gold AK-47." Perhaps this is due to their absolutely fierce, unrelenting intensity -- the band has always been aggressive in a spastic manner, and that's part of what keeps them far, far from any chance of being filed under a straight hardcore punk heading.
We're already getting off track here. In "Fire," multiple guitar tracks collide and tear forth, while Mark Gajadhar sounds like he's preparing for his own increasing explosion on the percussion. The noticeably darker tone continues on "We Ride Skeletal Lightning," charged by Johnny Whitney's high-pitched wail and a spectacularly mindblowing tempo change in its last minute. Whitney's intention in the last several years was to challenge himself vocally, and on Machetes, it definitely shows. His would be particularly alienating to the untrained ear on the first single, the bouncy "Lazer Life," and he actually manages to match the manic quality of the cabaret-like piano that's turned up in the sudden spasm towards the end. It's an absolutely wonderful, compelling song overall though, and offers a welcome alteration in the mood....full text
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