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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Blood Brothers: Young Machetes


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.

The Blood Brothers' fifth and last album arguably continues their drift towards «accessibility», although for me, that ain't saying much — as usual, I do not «get» these vocals, and think that whatever good or great musical ideas these guys might have, they consistently sabotage them by stubbornly conti­nuing to sing as if hung overnight by their genitals from a palm tree. From that point of view, they give a fairly realistic performance, but it also makes it quite hard to think of their songs as anything other than an exaggerated, ridiculous farce.

Which is too bad, since many of the songs do contain interesting ideas. Young Machetes was announced as a return to the band's «screamo» roots, but in reality it tries to achieve a working compromise between the non-stop fury of their first pair of albums and the experimental develop­ments of the second one — a fairly diverse collection that continues to express the band's disap­pointment with the world and its honest desire to blow it up from the inside in every single way they had tried previously, and a few ones they hadn't, such as the funky keyboard rhythms of ʽLaser Lifeʼ or the moody, almost haunting composition ʽExotic Foxholesʼ, with droning folksy acoustic guitars, bassoons (?) and, most wondrous of all, no vocals, an idea The Blood Brothers should have stuck to with much more enthusiasm, I believe.

There are also inklings of catchiness in some of the riffs (ʽCamouflage, Camouflageʼ) and some of the «vocal» melodies (ʽRat Riderʼ, like a crazy man's take on a nursery rhyme). There is also ongoing social protest (ʽLift The Veil, Kiss The Tankʼ), with even denser strung pearls of meta­phors and allegories ("young machetes in lingerie charm us all into a frenzy") that still resolve in truisms ("death's just death no matter how you dress it up"), but if people need truisms to stop wars, well, the brothers might have a point there. And, as usual, there is a fair amount of advan­ced technicalities for all those who think that catchiness is ever so overrated.

Problem is, none of that matters from a general point of view. Young Machetes may have, for the first and last time, brought The Blood Brothers into the top 100 (probably due to good promo­tion from V2 and the band's continuing capitalization on the anti-war theme), but I just do not see it working as the kind of statement that they wanted to make. Some things are just not compatible — you may play in 13/8 time to your musically knowledgeable friends, or you may shout wake up! to the sleepy world, but if you try to do both simultaneously, your friends might think that you're an offensive idiot, and the sleepy world might want to lock you up.

A good case in point is the epic finale to the album — ʽGiant Swanʼ, an overall good idea marred by uninspiring execution. The lyrics, of an almost totemist nature, conclude the Brothers' vision on a particularly original note — where their ancestors saw the world as a Giant Tree or a Giant Serpent, they have this hallucinatory vision of "ghosts in his wings, his guts are stuffed with pola­roids, and they're all humiliating" and how "he wrote a play and you're the protagonist". The mu­sical buildup goes from solemn dirge to overwhelming noisefest and back, as the Giant Swan completes and restarts its grim cycle of existence. All of this could be fascinating — I find it as ultimately boring as it is respectable, and with the usual mix of vocal ugliness to decisively tilt the scale against these guys.

I do, however, give them full praise for deciding to make this their last record and break up, be­cause Young Machetes makes it very clear that, whatever they had to say, whichever points they wanted to stress, they said, stressed, and finalized it all, and their «intellectual-extremist» shtick had largely failed, although it had its brief moments of curiosity — but no, I could never regard them as any sort of ideological analogy for the Stooges courtesy of the 2000s.

1 comment:

  1. "full praise for deciding to make this their last record and break up"
    Ah, more bands should follow that example. If I may do a suggestion:

    The two Battleheart EP's don't cut it yet, but the album Captain Morgan's Revenge is great fun with fine riffs and catchy melodies done at blazing speed. Afterwards: downhill. For instance the cover of In the Navy is only funny when you know the original and even then not that funny.