“In 2000 it was Soccer Moms,” laments Blood Brother lung burner Jordan Blilie. “Now it’s NASCAR Dads.” No, he’s not talking about a shift in his band’s fanbase, but rather those coveted voting blocs our political machine endeavors each election year to define and conquer. White or brown, broke or paid, schooled or ig’nant, these nebulous groups wield power in uncertain times, and 2004 is as shaky a time as any. While the MPV pushers rally behind pretty horse-faced Kerry and the NASCAR set (Non-Athletic-Sport-Causing-Adult-Retardation) cracks a tallboy for Bush 2.0, we who see no real choice languish in neglect.
But take solace, kids. Bad politics makes for good art and The Blood Brothers V2 debut Crimes offers 13 anthems for the disaffected.
From the rolling carnival organ and chiseled-beak thump of “Peacock Skeleton with Crooked Feathers” to the tarnished gold rope-chain bass line choking a dusty 808 break on “Teen Heat,” the band finds a new vibrancy in its organic yet forward thinking approach. “With Crimes,” says Johnny, we were so comfortable with each other that we could just jam and a song would come out of it.” “We very much got back to how we wrote songs in basements,” adds Morgan.
One of the most potent in the batch is the lead single, “Trash Flavored Trash.” A veritable audio brick lobbed at 5 o’clock news cameras, the song lambastes all that is unfair and unbalanced in TV news. Johnny and Jordan spout in a sugar-high shriek like they’ve gorged themselves on orange-alert Skittles. “And I’ve done the division: trash into trash equals trash flavored trash.”
Recorded in the backwoods of Seattle with producer John Goodmanson (Blonde Redhead, Sleater-Kinney), Crimes is sonically arresting and charged with intent. It’s also the perfect fix for a dopesick rock scene jonesing for nostalgia and schmaltz. Whether they’re aping a not-too-distant past in a 3-car garage or earnestly tugging at young girls’ heartstrings, an alarming number of bands these days seem content to run in place - but not The Blood Brothers. “I’m more interested in noise bands trying to do Japanese pop,” declares Morgan.
Birthed in 1997, The Blood Brothers came together in response to the heavy-handed rules of Seattle’s young punk community. “There were so many musical no-nos,” Johnny says of the time. “I remember feeling really shut in and restricted.” Though still committed to various other bands the Brothers soon became a vital outlet for each member. “The fact that there was so much more support for The Blood Brothers than any of our other bands was really liberating.”
In 2000 America nursed its collective hang-over from the macro-brewed fear at the decidedly lame Y2K party. That same year also saw the release of The Blood Brothers debut album This Adultery is Ripe (Second Nature/Sound Virus). A hellish cry from the ether of hardcore, the record is a 10-song carpet bomb of psychosexual screeds for youth on the verge, stripped bare but clutching their Born Against and Beatles LPs.
In 2001 they followed up with March On Electric Children on indie stalwart ThreeOneG. A self described short story set to music, the album chronicles a young girl’s descent into the greenish dead eye of a television turned off. It’s a tale of fleeting youth and beauty bought and sold in a septic cycle of degradation set to music that churns and turns like an ADD-afflicted toddler to a neon glare.
All the while they toured relentlessly and owned every gym floor, community center riser and all-ages stage they played. Some tours, though, put them before aggressively unsympathetic crowds when paired with more dude-friendly headliners. “People have this misconception that when you’re on stage that you’re not a human being,” muses Johnny. “To see someone in the audience looking directly at you and giving you the finger... if I saw that person in the street they wouldn’t do that to me but because I’m in a band and on stage there’s a different social context.” The soldiers they are, the band shrugged off these displays with a shimmy and a kissy-face and pushed ahead.
In 2002 the band signed to ARTISTdirect and set to work on its third album with producer Ross Robinson. “With Ross we had this weight that I thought was really self-imposed,” Morgan offers. “It’s only you who can make the pressure real.” Previously known for his work with gutter-chug bands in ballcaps and masks like Limp Bizkit and Slipknot, the coupling of Robinson with the Brothers made for a heady mix of hardcore nihilism and arena-rock theatrics. Jordan and Johnny delve deep into an Americana horror, detailing a squalid landscape dotted with fresh fruit and rotting vegetables. Frantic screams ebb and flow through fey hoots, vicious snarls and jutted-jaw croonings while Mark, Cody and Morgan sow a dense field of post-punk land mines triggered by Zappa-like time signatures.
Upon its release in 2003, Burn Piano Island, Burn had curmudgeonly critics and fans alike in a fever. “It was an interesting landscape at the time,” says Johnny. “Bands like Thursday and Glassjaw were getting really big so [we thought] maybe people will hear us through that.”
Subsequent touring, though, proved pulling off the new songs live to be a feat akin to mental water polo. “We really could only play three or four songs comfortably and not be exhausted,” Johnny cops. “So when it came to writing Crimes, it needed to be songs that were fun to play live.”
So what does the future hold for a band that long-ago lapped its peers and continually outdoes itself? “I’m very futuristic,” Morgan asserts. “Once we finish a song, I don’t want to make the same song again.” He ponders further the notion of longevity. “Take someone like Bob Dylan - a ripe asshole by most accounts yet a lot of people find so much meaning in his music. What is it about him that’s timeless? This is the great anomaly in music that I find so interesting.”