Right, so yesterday I wrote about The Blood Brothers’ 4th album, Crimes. The follow-up to their seminal release …Burn, Piano Island, Burn, that album was a more polished version of their early work: bursts of spastic chaos.
The album that precedes Piano Island is March on Electric Children. And as I wrote yesterday, their 2002 release bares almost no resemblance to its expensive elder.
Pros: March is explosive, unrelenting and raw. Vocalists Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie swap vocals, down even to individual words.
Cons: As the follow-up to their debut LP This Adultery is Ripe, it doesn’t advance the group’s sound as much as new fans might expect. Rather, it acts more as an extension than breaking new ground. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, considering the fact that the Seattle band, formed from the remnants of groups like The Vogue and Waxwing and Soiled Doves, were known for their underground roots and unrefined musicality.
But to look back now, more than a decade after the release of this album and Piano Island from 2003, the only thing I can say is what a difference a year (and, yanno, a freakin’ huge budget) can make. As a longtime fan of the band, to say that March on Electric Children and …Burn, Piano Island, Burn couldn’t be more different is the understatement of this entire project.
Sure, they share similar vocal characteristics, but if you somehow managed to strip away the screaming from the two records, you’d would be hard pressed to connect the two as the same group. “Birth Skin/Death Leather” is a raucous and raving opener, letting its listeners know that hey, there’s gonna be a good deal of screaming here, so strap in.
March is described as a concept album, which shouldn’t surprise fans of the band. “Mr. Electric Ocean” and “The Skin Army” represent foil-like themes of the record: the role the media plays in our lives, and its effect on superficiality. As with much of the group’s thematic content, lyrics are left open for interpretation and discussion.
For me, the primary difference between Piano Island and this album is the lack of keyboards and samples. With the exception of a ballsy Nine Inch Nails sample (no kidding – “Kiss of the Octopus” samples NIN’s “The Perfect Drug” and Reznor is none the wiser), the melting digitization prevalent throughout Piano Island is almost entirely absent on March on Electric Children.
This void turns out to be a big deal in the grand discography of the band, because a key layer of future Blood Brothers records is missing from their sophomore release. In this light, the divide between the years 2002 and 2003 for the band cannot be understated. While I may not have been 100% on board with some of the choices that Ross Robinson made, he definitely brought the band from potential to perennial all-stars.
Today’s listen proved March on Electric Children to be a bit dated, but an important final note for the first half-decade of The Blood Brothers. Songs like “New York Slave” and “Siamese Gun” still hold up, and make me long for the era just after Jungle Rules Live!, the group’s first DVD, which was released just before Piano Island came out. It’s a fascinating experience to watch, seeing the band bloom on camera, playing “Guitarmy” and “Cecilia” to fans for the first time, the demeanor of their audience changing from “This is a neat thrash band” to “Holy shit, what is this alien genre?”
So while much of March may be an early, thrash and mathcore-influenced work, it set the stage for an important band to make important music. And if I haven’t made the point yet, just listen to closer “American Vultures,” a track wholly unlike any other song the band ever released: minimal, caustic, and ultimately, the last page of The Blood Brothers’ first 5 years as a band.
From March on Electric Children, this is “Siamese Gun” –
Standout tracks: “Meet Me at the Waterfront After the Social,” and “New York Slave”
Weakest track: Hard to fault “Kiss of the Octopus” for its NIN sample, but it’s less innovative than the rest of March.
RIYL: Experimental hardcore overriding thrash and mathcore influences. Soiled Doves, The Locust, Holy Molar.