Having successfully shape-shifted their way onto a major label, The Blood Brothers are reaching a pivotal point in their collective career, where they must decide what it is exactly they want. Is commercial viability a concern or is maintaining the status quo good enough? Confused teenagers are great acolytes and everything, but what is the point of living in a van year in and year out?
Most bands make it obvious what they’re after, whether it be money, drugs, sex, or public adoration, but The Blood Brothers aren’t so easy to pigeonhole. The band’s mix of scorching guitars, jittery, spastic rhythms, and bi-polar-izing, shrill vocals has never targeted radio or mass consumption in any obvious way. So, its steady rise from record to record is either a randomly fortuitous side-effect or the spoil of a bizarrely calculated plan.
The band has toured relentlessly since its inception a decade ago, climbing through several indies like Second Nature and Three One G before landing a deal through Artist Direct for Burn, Piano Island, Burn, which turned into a bigger deal with Virgin subsidiary V2. As a result of bigger dollars, seeing The Blood Brothers on MTV2 is mildly surreal. This band’s music, as abrasive and shockingly frantic as it may seem on the surface, secretly possesses, particularly as of late, plenty of hooks, choruses, and melodies that aren’t too alien or weird for a commercial comb-over like MTV. Balancing an innate determination to be reckless and surreal, The Blood Brothers have extraordinary pop sensibilities tucked beneath their manic, aural fire and brimstone.
Since The Blood Brothers don’t seem like fame-hungry starfuckers, it’s
safe to assume it’s all about the music for them. Although, more often
than not, bands that seem genuine and sincere about their music and
their integrity at the outset quickly morph into shallow shells of
self-obsession and self-righteousness once the money comes pouring in.
But, despite a subliminally more cohesive sound on their last two records, The Blood Brothers are a far cry from selling their souls. The musical growth on its
latest album, Young Machetes, is borne out of a natural musical
curiosity rather than a quest for fame. When bands have been together
as long as The Blood Brothers have, it’s only natural to push the
limits of your abilities, unless you’re Green Day and content to write
the same song in the same key with the same vocal inflection over and
Young Machetes is The Blood Brothers’ fifth album and is easily
their most ambitious to date -not their weirdest, nor their noisiest, but most ambitious. This is a double-edged sword because ambition can get you into trouble sometimes, especially when you overreach or compromise. On Crimes, The Blood Brothers teetered a little too close to melody for their own tastes- not that a pop fan off the street would have noticed, but compared to the scathing thrash of, say, This Adultery Is Ripe, it was certainly more accessible. And, almost as though feeling guilty, the band has turned up the noise factor on Young Machetes.
Incorporating the blissful noise of their early work allows The Blood Brothers to meld their penchant for frenzy with gratuitously catchy hooks. It’s a peculiar mix and one that might puzzle potential fans, but, musically, it proves that this band is unafraid to see what it’s capable of. Lyrically, vocalists Johnnie
Whitney and Jordan Blilie match the unpredictable chaos of the music
with words that attack and confuse with equal fervor. Politics and materialism are frequent, easy targets. How these two vocalists have managed not to destroy their voices is the biggest mystery of all. Shrieking with such force one moment only to sing cleanly the next is no small feat. And ten years of this level of
constant abuseâ€¦their vocal cords must be impenetrable.
All major labels expect sales, even boutique subsidiaries like V2. And
sales determine a band’s fate. Labels don’t allow bands to grow slowly
or develop them over a period of time any more. They want instant
gratification. The Blood Brothers have built a loyal foundation with
constant touring and relatively consistent records, but the next step looms
large, as the band is two records into its deal. Will MTV face-time
equal sales on a level that keeps V2 happy? Do The Blood Brothers even
care? Or would they be just as content to go back to the indies? I
think The Blood Brothers are amused that they’ve made it this far, and
I cannot imagine they would tweak their sound to meet any commercial
needs. If a single happened to break, so be it. But it’s not being
calculated that way. The Blood Brothers are fiercely storming their
own path, consequences be damned.