The Blood Brothers make me laugh. And before I go on I want to clarify, and say that the previous statement is in no way meant to be a derogatory comment towards the band. This isn’t mean spirited laughing we’re talking about here. It’s more the sort of laugh that slips out of your mouth right before it slides open into a broad smile. I think this reaction comes from actually seeing the group live, complete with over the top diva-esque posturing, and mountains of feminine screaming, but nonetheless it tends to stick with me as I listen to the Blood Brothers newest (and fifth full length album) Young Machetes.
Both brutal and thick in art punk experimentation Young Machetes seems at once to share the distinction of being their most accessible and challenging record to date. And I guess that is what separates it from their earlier albums such as Crimes, or Burn, Piano Island, Burn. It’s the first time I’ve truly been able to draw a line in the sand and say, on this side lay the more conventional Blood Brothers numbers, and on this side rests the more experimental fare. I mean, don’t get me wrong, by most people’s standards all of these songs would seem to reside on the heavy side of experimentation, but for someone more familiar with their previous work, it is a new development.
Observations aside though, for the most part it all works. “Vital Beach” and “Laser Life” feel like the obvious singles (falling directly on the conventional side) but they’re also two of the best songs the Blood Brothers have ever written. And when they do wander over the other side of this metaphysical line in the sand on tracks like “1,2,3,4 Guitars” (with it’s whispery vocals and beat poetry percussion) it’s at least interesting. Later “Giant Swan” plays like a murder ballad (sung by an androgynous seductress) in a slinky dress until the three quarter point hits and call and response vocals occur with the screamed refrain being –Is that the door/what the fuck?–.
Lyrically Young Machetes is more obtuse than most anything the band has released yet. In interviews primary writer Johnny Whitney has stated that most of the lyrics were born out of free association as opposed to the much more topical songs featured on past albums such as Crimes. And while the lyrics do have the feel of being more about how the words sound together than what they actually mean, they’re still exceptionally strong. You wouldn’t think it, with all of the rampant unintelligible screaming, but lyrics have always been one of main strengths of the band.
It’s always a surreal experience to hear a crowd overpower a singer with his or her own words, but it’s even more exceptional if the lyrics being harkened back to aren’t cheap relationship based couplets. And believe it or not if you ever get a chance to see the Blood Brothers live you will hear a large mass of people mirroring lines like–We’re the boys jailed in a horses skull/we nailed our ears to a glittering feral drone–from “We ride skeletal lightning.” Or –I crawled through 60,000 yards of carnival graveyards/witches with obscene riches chasing my mirage–from “You’re the dream Unicorn”.
So, while these randomly selected lines may not show it, (out of context I will agree, they may appear a little over the top) there is substance here, there is meaning. And that is why I’m continually drawn to the Blood Brothers, even though for the most part, I don’t like hardcore. They seem to be one of the only bands left within the genre that is continually pushing boundaries. Even beyond that, there is an integrity to them that most bands (hardcore or not) seem to lack. So with this, their newest album, the Blood Brothers have proven themselves yet again. Challenging, brutal, and uncompromising Young Machetes is the real deal.
– Jared Fiechtner