The Blood Brothers

With a palette of six different colors of punk, smeared with no-wave androgyny, mallrat hipsterism, "fashion-core" and a sense of humor warped to the point of sadism, the Blood Brothers are the unlikeliest of commercial successes. It seems as if they could have been specifically constructed to alienate audiences of all stripes and confound all but the most open-minded (or mentally ill) critics. The Seattle quintet owes a significant debt to the thrash-emo of Swing Kids, the groovy hardcore of the Refused and the mod punk of the Nation of Ulysses, but since 2002's March on Electric Children, they have consistently pushed fist-pumping scream-filled rock to -- and past -- its limits. 2004's Crimes was somewhat more tuneful, if also much stranger, than their previous work, and as a result the October release of Young Machetes had been hotly anticipated as a crossover smash. Instead, it turned out to be a dense, violent, challenging record that some critics (Rolling Stone and Pitchfork Media, for example) couldn't handle. The problem is understandable, as vocalists Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney relate seven full pages (in six-point-type, no less) of urban horrors in their disturbing howls. To boot, Whitney does something that sounds like the screech of a stricken tomcat, as well as singing in a greatly improved countertenor. The combination of these alarming vocals with nearly an hour of the band's hellish musical obstacle course makes for an unnerving listen. It was a mistake, however, to expect the Blood Brothers to produce anything easy to digest; their music has always been crowded and difficult. The fact that they have succeeded nonetheless is a testament to its shocking power.
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Daniel Mee