The Blood Brothers

Young Machetes

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Before the release of Young Machetes, the Blood Brothers mentioned that the album would return to the harsher, more frenetic sound of their earlier work. This is true -- especially of the opening song, "Set Fire to the Face on Fire," which immediately commences to shrieking and shredding -- but it doesn't mean that the band completely did away with the overtures they made toward a more accessible sound on their previous album, Crimes. Instead, the Blood Brothers find sneakier ways of incorporating their twisted pop skills into the fray. There's no denying the hooks on "Rat Rider" nor the jaunty keyboards on "Laser Life," while "Camouflage, Camouflage"'s breakdown recalls the noise-meets-glam-rock flair of Johnny Whitney and Mark Gajadhar's side project, Neon Blonde. Nevertheless, Young Machetes' more challenging tracks are some of the most satisfying, especially "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds," which begins as a song so sneeringly catchy it seems almost disdainful of its own hookiness, and then shifts to subversively melodramatic, ultra-melodic parts that suggest a long-buried past in musical theater. "We Ride Skeletal Lighting" is that song's flip side, making relentless atonality seem downright accessible. On the other hand, Young Machetes also includes some of the Blood Brothers' most gleefully abrasive work in some time. "You're the Dream Unicorn!"'s ironically sissy title conceals one of the album's most intense workouts, which starts out sounding like a noise-punk savaging of "I Want Candy" and just gets crazier from there; "1, 2, 3, 4 Guitars"' whisper to a blood-curdling scream dynamics are extreme, even for this band. The Blood Brothers aim their nightmarishly surreal lyrics at some juicy targets throughout the album, including materialism on "Nausea Shreds Yr Head," war on "Kiss the Tank," which contains some of the most literal lyrics ("Death's just death, no matter how you dress it up") that they've ever written, and war and materialism on "Huge Gold AK-47." However, the album's most ambitious moment has to be its last one: "Giant Swan" is an epic that sounds like "a wild cabaret," as one of the lyrics goes, and packs a screenplay's worth of plot twists and imagery into its nearly six-minute length. With this album, the Blood Brothers use the clout of being on a major label to make music that's challenging, but also accessible in its own way. Young Machetes is occasionally exhausting, but it definitely won't disappoint fans of either the band's earlier or more recent sounds.

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