The Prize Fighter Inferno - My Brother's Blood Machine Review
by Mark Hensch
With the recent demise of Coheed & Cambria, one can be forgiven for wondering in which direction that act's various talents will go. Many considered frontman Claudio Sanchez to be the driving force behind Coheed, and rumors are constantly swirling about what direction the band was heading in before their premature destruction. Released shortly before the crap hit the fan, Claudio's side project, the oddly titled The Prize Fighter Inferno, is a highly unusual and complicated catalyst for all manner of hidden urges. Judging by the overwhelming pop sentiments of this album, it is apparent that either Claudio wanted to take Coheed in a less rock oriented direction or that he simply had too much love for the pop genre to let it go untapped. Regardless, My Brother's Blood Machine is an album so unashamed of its sugary, catchy, and unassuming pop that it might just rot out your teeth. This is electronica-fused pop rock, somewhere between Coheed's lighter moments and the Postal Service or something like that.
Ironically, I can't bring myself to hate it entirely. I am by no means a pop fan and for the most part I avoid all variations of said genre like the plague. The disarming factor with Blood Machine is that it makes no bones about the fact it is nothing but a pop album, and you'll be damned for wanting anything else. The music here is so gentle, soothing, and straightforward you almost have to appreciate it for what it is. The fact of the matter is that this an album so undeniably poppy you can't help but revel in the honesty it shows in not pretending to be anything but.
The kind synth bumps of "The Going Price for Home" is perfect. Imagine a world of ethereal, layered beats ala the Postal Service with Claudio's soft, flute-like crooning over it. There is nothing else to the song and yet it somehow works. When the song bubbles over into an absurdly sugary chorus, you can't help but grin at how childish it is. Most people probably won't love it, but it is hard not to admire the simplicity it holds.
The rest of the album is in pretty much the exact same tone. Once again Sanchez has wrapped his music in complex and purposely vague narratives to confuse and intrigue more devoted listeners. "The Fight of Moses Early & Sir Arthur McCloud" is actually a really rad space-age ballad that is not unlike CoCa's "I, Robot." "Our Darling Daughter You Are, Little Cecillia Marie" combines more of Claudio's fleet, nimble guitar-picking with winding passages of gentle electronica and even a bit of shoegazing tone.
The blip-on-the-radar that is "A Death in the Family" is sickeningly warm synth pop that I didn't dig too much....like the majority of said style of music, it is too harmless and kind to make any lasting impression. "The Margetville Dance" sounds like an unholy marriage of Postal Service loops and Michael Jackson vocal wanks. Don't ask me how the hell something like this came to be but it actually pulls itself off somehow.
"Accidents" journeys into noisy electronica realms replete with mechanical beats and chilled effects. Out of nowhere, some weird form of ambient lounge weaves its way in. The end result is a song so strangely peaceful that it makes things freakishly compelling, and by now I'm fairly interested in where this album is going next.
Where things turn next is the jaunty "Run, Gunner Recall, Run! The Town Wants You Dead!" This weird little ditty is a morbid twang-guitar run with lots of cryptic lyrics and the occasional swirl of cosmic dust in the background. I can't help but point out that I love it, and its follow-up in "Who Watches the Watchmen?" is equally strong. An archaic piano is melded into a pattern of clicking beats and light guitar picking. It is a sunny little number that should elicit plenty of sheepish grins, and this one is the textbook definition of guilty pleasure.
"Wayne Andrews, The Old Bee Keeper" is a quiet, simplistic guitar tale laden with intrigue, murder, and mystery. Sounding eerie in its wise minimalism, the song is a jarring tune in that it does so much with so little. "The Missing McCloud Boys" is so foolishly surreal I can't believe it. Basically, the song is stark and unflinching in its overall technical ease, and Claudio turns his vocals into that of a sprite-like child. Weird stuff indeed....
"Easter" snakes and slithers through quaint acoustica. It isn't that far of a departure musically or even thematically from "The Missing McCloud Boys" and in honesty the two should probably have had some minor seperation to further amplify the effect it has on listeners. Like a whisper in a poorly-lit room, this song flickers in and out of your reality and toys with you in a sort of deep contentedness. "78" wraps up the disc with plenty of silence followed by one of Claudio's trademark secret tracks, the likes of which have been a staple on pretty much every album the man has done. For the sake of all who approach this disc, I won't spoil it, so wait through the excess space and enjoy!
To sum it up, this disc is a far-cry from things Claudio Sanchez has done in the past. This disc isn't for everyone but if you don't mind the bright-pink taste of bubblegum I suppose what one will hear here cannot be that bad. Long story short, if you are feeling exploratory there is no harm in checking this out; it simply is not essential.
1. The Going Price for Home
2. The Fight of Moses Early & Sir Arthur McCloud
3. Our Darling Daughter You Are, Little Cecillia Marie
4. A Death in the Family
5. The Margretville Dance
7. Run, Gunner Recall, Run! The Town Wants You Dead!
8. Who Watches the Watchmen?
9. Wayne Andrews, the Old Bee Keeper
10. The Missing McCloud Boys
12. 78 (Secret Track of Sorts)
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