The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes Review
by Mark Hensch
On their sixth full length album, Young Machetes, Seattle natives the Blood Brothers have honed an increasingly diverse mix of influences to a razor-sharp edge. You want frenetic, hyper-charged punk? Check. Sugary pop played by anarchists raised on Noam Chomsky? Gotchya. How about fuzzy, acidic 1970's rock played with almost absurdly surreal OTT charisma? Add another checkmark to the list....Young Machetes is exactly what it says it is. It shows a band mixing plural styles to a point of perfection so fine it wouldn't make you bleed if you got sliced with it. With each successive Blood Brothers release, I dread hearing the final album; will that sense of real danger, real social frustration, and most importantly real distaste for the state of humanity still survive, let alone progress? The answer with Machetes is a resounding yes; the Blood Brothers are more unacceptable and uncompromising than ever before.
The kinetic "Set Fire to the Face on Fire" is blatant evidence of this. The song swings with massive, deep groove that never looses a sense of freakish, hyperactive ADD. This song is a neon-puke stained anthem to overthrowing convention, and it never loses any of its catchy hooks either. "We Ride Skeletal Lightning" slinks in on a castrated, slinking riff, all before the band launches into a thundering romper-stomper complete with an acidic psychobilly swamp-rock passage. When frontman Jordan Blillie leads a furious charge over cresting sugar highs, you'll see the divine. The sick and twisted "Laser Life" has a garish keyboard/jazz fusion that works wonders. This sick puppy jitters with caffeine-addled mania. When Blillie bemoans that the world "has no beginning and has no end," goosebumps will crowd your arm like frenzied rioters. "Camouflage, Camouflage" alternates between the band's older Christmas-light strangled skeleton punk and their more recent forays into satirical, hyperactive funk rock. There are legitimate ass-shaking grooves here, but the real joy is in how furious the band comes across on tape.
Furious, that is, at least until "You're the Dream Unicorn!" rides up and beheads your unsuspecting cranium. The song builds off hypnotic, chunky riffs before lacerating faces with grinding tremolo-blitzkriegs. What follows is nothing short of musical rape and pillageing, with the band ascending to the highs songs like "Burn Piano Island, Burn" were set on earlier albums. As trance-inducing vocals float out of the chaos, mass confusion ensues; is this tricky metaphor, subtle satire, or darkly misleading references to nothing in true nihilist fashion? Who knows? Before you can question things any further, listeners go to "Vital Beach." Skittering and lean, the song is akin to having a school of marauding pirannhas eat you alive. The band also redefines gang-vocals with their near-random howls, screeches, and hisses; fans of the band's early material will be tickled especially pink by this cut.
And speaking of old fans, they'll be blown away by the shockingly diverse "Spit Shine your Black Clouds." To be blunt, I fucking love this. Imagine if the Blood Brothers went back in time and killed pop music, only to replace it with their own take on true rock 'n roll rebellion. It is at times beautiful, at times sadistic, and almost always brutally dark. It is also a little less intense than other tracks, and will probably be an excellent introduction to the band's style of perverting pretty much anything that society has deemed to be safe for our robotic, unthinking consumption.
"1, 2, 3, 4 Guitars" continues this thread of musical experimentation. The Blood Brothers attack with a chilled-out lounge jazz number murdered by a dose of bad ecstasy laced with even worse LSD. Just when you think they've finally lost their energy, things explode into a series of violent spurts. "Lift the Veil, Kiss the Tank" next takes the stage, and is a rock ballad done Blood Brothers style. There are plenty of sing-alongs, misanthropy, color-coded guitar hooks, and grinding bass lines. "Nausea Shreds Yr Head" is surf rock in a sea of acid, pretty much your classic headfuck to a tee. "Rat Rider" has some pretty rad opening percussion and tons of swarming energy beneath the surface; when things final boil over into the writhing dance-rock from Hell that it really is, try not to boogie when you're burning down society. I'd call this the feelgood hit of the Apocalypse.
"Johnny Ripper" doesn't offer any rest, its buzzing hypertension built on moments of serene clarity amidst jumbled mathematics done in a coked-out haze. "Huge Gold AK-47" is catchier than the Bubonic Plague, and just as infectious. This rapidfire hook doozy wastes hook ammo on your corpse like it is out to desecrate, and I bet this one will be stuck in your skull for days.
"Street Wars/Exotic Foxholes" sees Young Machetes wind down to a marvelous close with this and follow-up "Giant Swan." The former is spawned from patient funk bass and soon expands into a noisy, rattling sing-along. It is probably the most focused I've ever heard this particularly anarchic band get, and trust me, it works extremely well. A simple yet moving clean guitar passage is slowly chained to a swelling orchestral number, the likes of which announces closing track "Giant Swan." "Giant Swan" is a largely acoustic number with some tribal percussion and a slow build into one last batch of fireworks. The song is in essence exactly what I hoped Burn Piano Island, Burn's "The Shame" could have been, yet infinitely better; the band have realy upped everything about their output yet again.
With each and every year, I watch as people around me are sucked into an ever increasing number of childish, obnoxious, and overall safe bands who parade some vague notion of rebellion and punk. The fact these bands actually profit from the hardwork and actual social destruction caused by real punk bands during the genre's early days shows just how little in our world needs to be challenged these days to appear "against the system" so-to-speak. Perhaps this sense of overall contented safety is what makes this band so increasingly amazing; our world is not fucking alright and they know it. If you want to hear what is outside the sphere of modern conformity, see if you can track this down. If the Blood Brothers keep up this level of work, it won't be that hard to find...this is a definite album of the year contender. Five stars!
1. Set Fire to the Face on Fire
2. We Ride Skeletal Lightning
3. Laser Life
4. Camouflage, Camouflage
5. You're the Dream Unicorn!
6. Vital Beach
7. Spit Shine Your Black Clouds
8. 1, 2, 3, 4 Guitars
9. Lift the Veil, Kiss the Tank
10. Nausea Shreds Yr Head
11. Rat Rider
12. Johnny Ripper
13. Huge Gold AK-47
14. Street Wars/Exotic Foxholes
15. Giant Swan
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