To this day, The Blood Brothers remain on my list of “desert island” bands. And while Burn, Piano Island, Burn! may just be their most popular record, or at least the album that rocketed them to relative success, Young Machetes is by far their most complete work.
The Blood Brothers perfected dual vocalists. They managed to find their sound with next to no budget (This Adultery is Ripe) or with piles of cash (Piano Island cost $1 million dollars – but I’m sure a large chunk of that went to Rick Rubin). And each time I saw them live (which I believe ended up being 7 or 8 before they broke up), it felt like watching a band in both their physical and musical prime, with surprising amounts of unbridled energy.
But most important of all, they weren’t afraid to try new things. From one record to the next, Johnny, Jordan, Cody, Morgan and Mark continuously defied sonic logic to produce some of the most creative and absurd – yet, somehow, cohesive tunes you’ve ever put in your ears.
Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie trade lyrical duties, and listening to them back-and-forth is akin to an audible Salvador Dali painting. Young Machetes – and really, just about all of their releases – are rife with bizarre, horrific, shocking images and themes. I guess it helps that both are learned and well read – and Blilie is a high school English teacher to boot. Both singers have a way with words that is unlike anything I’ve seen attempted in music before.
Take, for example, one of my favorites: “You’re The Dream Unicorn!”
I’m the unicorn with tar teeth
Chewing spandex nightmares.
My spine’s a limousine that drives all night
But never goes anywhere.
If I sang instead of screamed
When you crushed me with your Corvette
Would you change your jet for a microphone
And record the opera of deathbeds?
Look, I realize that many people will write off the lyrical and thematic content as hallucinogenic fever dreams. But the layers and recurring threads within their songs are downright worthy of being studied on a large scale. My reading comprehension is pretty poor, but I’d gladly spend time analyzing their discography. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to unpack.
I guess this band is one of the first for which I was truly a “fanboy.” Their rise in popular coincided with my last two years in high school, a time when I first started going to shows regularly.
So when Young Machetes was released, I could tell it would be their last. There’s something so finite about the end of this album. Both “Street Wars/Exotic Foxholes” and “Giant Swan” play out like aural hands waving goodbye.
Young Machetes is the culmination of a decade of creativity, and sends the band out with a bang – literally. “Set Fire to the Face on Fire” might be their most creative single – if it weren’t for “Laser Life” just two tracks later.
“Camouflage, Camouflage” is possibly the most complete track the band has ever produced. “Rat Rider” and “Huge Gold AK-47” both soar with unparalleled creative inventiveness.
Despite how difficult it was to see a band like the Bloods go away for good, the band has splintered into a number of different projects since 2007, including: Neon Blonde, Jaguar Love, Head Wound City, and Past Lives.
Good, too, because these are the types of musicians that need to produce. There are too few “voices” for them not to be around anymore.
Also, I once heard someone describe Johnny Whitney’s vocal style as “putting a hyena through a wood chipper.” Accurate.
From their final release Young Machetes, here’s “Street Wars/Exotic Foxholes”:
Standout tracks: “Camouflage, Camouflage” and “Giant Swan”
Weakest track: “1, 2, 3, 4 Guitars” – it’s crazy and tribal and even dare I say erotic, but the album doesn’t benefit much from it.
RIYL: Experimental, avant-garde punk. Fear Before the March of Flames, The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower.