Benzos – Branches
Record Label: Stinky Records
Release Date: August 7, 2007
Branches is a harrowing march past tired indie rock formulas. Arghh! Those relationship lyrics are still wriggling! And look there; that dancey riff staggers. Kill it! Benzos, take up thy mighty sword of fresh content and lead me to the motherland. Lead me to unbridled song structures and fresh maidens. Lots and lots of maidens.
Yes, I have been watching 300. Why do you ask?
Benzos haven’t released anything too epic or pretentious with Branches, but they have put quite a beautiful stamp on melancholic indie rock. Still, this dark emotion is almost contradictory. This hypocrisy comes in the form of Steve Bryant’s percussion. While the raspy voice of Christian Celaya is simply agonizing during “Hurt Everybody,” Bryant’s cymbal and snare onslaught faintly hints at an underlying optimism. Branches isn’t cheery, though; there is a reason the album isn’t called "flowers" or “roots.” This imagery (and sweet album art) couldn’t do a better job of preparing the listener for lyrics like, “We’re captive here, we’re captive here / With chains we die, locked to his lies / We’re captive here to greatest fears.”
The ambient nature of Benzos is so well executed that you don’t listen to Branches when it’s raining. It rains because of Branches. A bit creepy, I admit, but “Hard To Feel” has the same effect of a looming thunderstorm. The bluesy drum intro is admittedly downtrodden; a ballad must be on the way. Not so, and as pianos and light synths accompany Celaya in his soaring chorus, things couldn’t be ‘happier.’ “Hard To Feel” comes nicely equipped with a silver lining.
Tracks such as dancey and alt radio friendly “Sell This Thing” and “Life,” with its atmospheric electronics, can get stuffy. Even at almost an hour, you get the feeling Benzos ran out of space for their endless ideas. Thankfully, this problem doesn’t taint the closer, “Pere.” A simple acoustic guitar leads the way, only sparsely backed by a heavy bass drum and echoed electric guitar. Boy is this track slow. Celaya’s harsh yearning comes through in every falsetto and every inhale. My goodness, this man’s heart is broken beyond repair. His pain is the most human sound I’ve heard in some time.
My usual disrespect for most things music was admittedly absent throughout this review. It just doesn’t feel right. And I know, I sound terribly hokey and mozzarella cheesy at points, but know that I spray sentiment with the utmost of care. Emotional involvement in a record is something I can’t quantify, so I won’t. I will say this, though: It looks like rain.
Recommended If You Like: Mute Math, (new) Bloc Party, galoshes, (oldest) Further Seems Forever, the elusive “Beautiful Death”