The Blood Brothers – Young Machetes
Record Label: V2 Records
Release Date: October 10th 2006
After two extremely well received albums, Seattle’s The Blood Brothers had a lot of hype to live up to with their most recent release, Young Machetes. 2003’s Burn Piano Island, Burn was a landmark in the hardcore scene, acting as a melting pot by incorporating many different musical styles into the band’s spastic brand of sass-core. Crimes, released in 2004 saw your Blood Brothers toning it down a little while stretching their more experimental side. Although a critical darling, one could argue that it had more potential than what was produced on the final product. My expectations were high when Young Machetes was announced. Upon pouring over my copy, my worries were eased. The high bar I had set, shattered. Simply put, Young Machetes is The Blood Brothers’ finally finding their stride and stepping out of the giant shadow cast by Burn Piano Island Burn.
First thing’s first, the vocals on this album are incredibly unique. Dual vocalists Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie have turned in some of their best vocal tracks and one of the strongest vocal performances of last year. Anyone new to the band will be surprised at the range and creativity of these two, as it is unlike anything out there right now. Soft and dancey melodies are molded seamlessly with screams so high they sound like cats fighting in a room full of crying kindergartners, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Whereas many bands with two vocalists switch off lines and songs, Blilie and Whitney use their different tonalities to compliment each other’s strong points, many times even alternating singular words during songs. Whitney, in particular, has really come a long way since their last release, hitting many of the high-pitched notes hinted at on Crimes with much greater ease and confidence. Look no further than “Camouflage, Camouflage” for an example of how versatile his croon has become. This song contains a keyboard break in the middle in which Whitney hits highs and deep lows before the rest of the band kicks in, allowing Blilie and Whitney to build to a stunning crescendo before it cuts to a silence abruptly, allowing no chance to climax. “Lazer Life” and “Spiteshine Your Black Clouds” are clearly dance influenced and catchy enough to please even those who aren’t typically fans of hardcore. Fret not hardcore elitists, there are still some of the same blisteringly energetic anthems you have come to expect from the band in “You’re The Dream, Unicorn!” and “Nausea Shreds Your Head” which wouldn’t sound out of place next to the live favorite “Trash Flavored Trash” from their previous record. Lyrically, the stream of conscious narrative style of the duo seems much more focused and to the point. There is still a lot of ambiguity left in the words though which allows a lot of room for interpretation. Sometimes they don’t make much sense, and are even strange at points, but with the finesse of the delivery, the rich pictures painted the lyrics really come to life.
Musically, Young Machetes is just as creative as the vocals, even if there are some weak spots towards the end of the album. “Set Fire To The Face On Fire” is a perfect opener with it’s pulsing bass sounding like a siren alerting listeners of the band’s arrival. The drums are a spot-on compliment to the music, creating a groove perfect for guitarist Cody Votolato to add dynamic layers on top of. I dare you to listen to the break in the middle of the song and not bob your head. This track gives way to “We Ride Skeletal Lighting” which is also one of the best songs on the album. The song manages to be hard without being too hard, and contains a surprising amount of pop sensibility hidden beneath the lazy detuned guitars. It is a perfect starting point for anyone looking to get a good taste of the band in as little time as possible. Even the breakdown towards the end is reminiscent of the overall feel of Burn Piano Island, Burn, with spazzy instrumentation and the commanding screams of Blilie and Whitney alternating over top. This is controlled chaos at its finest.
Although the first half of this album is a welcome addition for any Blood Brothers fan, Young Machetes starts to lose a little steam towards the end. The opening half is so strong that the second part of the album, although having some great moments, is not quite as impressive. Similar to Crimes, it seems like some of the final songs sound more like filler when compared to the way the album started out, with guns blazing. Also, the more accessible direction taken to some new songs could alienate people who love their straight hardcore side.
As with any Blood Brothers album, you will either love it or hate it depending on your opinions of the band. Some, at first listen, may dismiss Young Machetes, but like a fine wine, it gets better with age. After many repeated listens, I am still finding subtle nuances that I didn’t notice the previous time around or a new vocal layer hidden in the background. Overall, Young Machetes may not feel like Burn Piano Island, Burn 2, but it is good in different ways. It is not as instantly memorable but it is a worthy addition to an already strong back catalogue. Anyone that didn’t enjoy the direction taken in Crimes owe it to themselves to give this a spin, because Young Machetes is a testament to the fact that The Blood Brothers are only getting more talented as they evolve.
This album was by far one of the best of 2006. It takes the best experimentation from Crimes and replaces the sometimes silly moments with blistering bits of BPIB-era hardcore. The song "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds" could be one of the best songs the Clash never wrote. It's overall just fucking superb.
"cats fighting in a room full of crying kindergartners" Great line. This was probably my second favorite album of 2006. I still like the end though, with Giant Swan being somewhat catchy and Rat Rider being a good song.