In the hands of almost any other band, a chorus of “You’re so fucked up, you’re a fucking mess” would bring back unwelcome images of a certain overweight thirty year old making dubious claims about his “g-g-generation”. However when faced with Blood Brothers’ scathingly intelligent lyrical content and borderline-insanity vocal delivery, it’s clear that Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie have simply run out of ways to express their total contempt for, well, pretty much everything; and it’s staggeringly effective.
In the world of Blood Brothers everything is corrupt and while it’s hard to decipher what exactly they stand for, it’s pretty certain that they don’t like what they see around them. There are the obligatory musings on love, although only in the most twisted way possible; My First Kiss At The Public Execution is hardly an ode to old-fashioned romantic values whilst Blilie’s unhinged and disconcertingly feminine intonation of “love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love” in Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck is unlikely to have been inspired by the first flushes of a beautiful relationship. Meanwhile Trash Flavoured Trash would initially seem to be a withering attack on Bush’s environmental policy but could just as easily be a bitter satire on our disposable culture while the title track’s refrain of ‘is anybody listening’ could refer to any number of marginalised social groups. Either way, lines such as “there’s a boy in a toupee speaking in resumes” and “when we were kissing in the car those rodents in her throat smoked cigars” are unlikely to reveal any definitive meaning, assuming there’s even one to waiting to be discovered.
However all of this artful ambiguity wouldn’t amount to much if it weren’t set against some of the most stunningly intense music to have been composed over the past ten years. Guitarist Cody Votolato seems intent on using his guitar for anything except playing something conventional, be it harmonising with the vocals by tapping his pick ups, delivering off-kilter riffs that insolently destroy any pretence of a sustained groove or just make unholy amounts of noise while drummer Mark Gajadhar is apparently afflicted with ADD if he holds a steady beat for more than ten seconds. Even better, underneath this surface barrage of spiteful noise lurk the kind of brooding pianos, cheap synths and obscure musical implements (how about a bit of wurlitzer and farfisa) that mean the album continues to throw up new layers of sound on even the twentieth listen.
And then there are the vocals. If there is one distinguishing characteristic to their music, it’s that Blood Brothers overuse vocals in the same way a Clive Tyldesley commentary overuses ‘that night in Barcelona’. The simple reason for this is that when Blilie’s high pitched shriek is offset against the redneck drawl of Whitney there are few bands that can touch Blood Brothers; strangulated cries and lacerating screams fly out of the speakers from every conceivable angle before settling on hooks that manage to be both frustratingly complex and incredibly catchy. And it’s this maelstrom of noise, of disparate elements, that makes this band so thrillingly vital. They fly in the face of the convention just for fun, testing how far they can push what they play before it becomes genuinely unlistenable and then rescue it with the kind of hook that Brian Wilson required a year in a cupboard to create. If punk rock is truly about challenging preconceptions, then Blood Brothers are the best in the business.