The Blood Brothers Live in NYC, 2005
My ears are still bleeding beautifully from last night's show. Before we even got there, we saw the Blood Brothers spilling out of a Chelsea restaurant in front of us, so skinny and gangly they look like burlesque scarecrows and it was so cold and dreary out (considering it was June) that even the Seattle natives looked a bit soggy and nipped. In so many words, the Blood Brothers put the jank in janky. We followed a distance behind them to Spirit, a newer venue planted in the skeletons of what was the notorious drug/dance club, Twylo. Actually a pretty decent venue, a nice airy layout and good sound--so loud that even the normally unphased security guards were irritably wincing.
The opening acts were plenty loud but not too remarkable. The first band, Big Business, was basically a showcase for the drummer who was unbelievable. The second act, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, were an apt opener for the Blood Brothers, though their uniforms and red arm bands made them come off as fascists or Nazis, though in the spirit of Cabaret. The singer paraded around squirming and sticking his hand down his pants, and would occasionally blow on a saxophone, which was actually pretty good, at times sounding like hardcore experimental jazz. But we were saving our ears for the Blood Brothers...
There were no grand entrances for The Blood Brothers. They swaggered on stage one by one to tune and check their own instruments. The mic check was particularly amusing. Rather than do the typical check-1-2-3, the singers Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney took turns screaming into the microphone. And when I say "scream," that is only because there are no words in the English language to describe what it is they do with their voices, particularly the flamboyant Jordan, whose banshee shrieking emanates from some primordial source like he is screaming with such effervescing exuberance that his insides are ripped from his body and lashed out of his throat like he is exorcising his demons, like a Tuvan throat singer running around with his head cut off. And this is what is particularly appealing about the Blood Brothers--there are plenty of angst and testosterone-riddled bands fueled by meathead anger, but the Blood Brother's fury is more of a victimized bloodshed, like they are the ones being punished by you and suffering on our behalf--like they were bullied and kicked in the balls one too many times as kids and now they are lashing back with a furious vengeance.
... and the sirens are laughing underneath your skull
But actually they are still essentially kids, and everyone else in the audience except us seemed like they were in high school. And rightfully so, this is where these kids should be instead of at the Warped tour or a Green Day concert. They have far more bottled emotion than any emo band, and they are an actual evolution of punk rock instead of a watered-down derivation.
The vocal-driven dual onslaught of Johnny and flamboy Jordan is what makes the Blood Brothers completely unique. Their voices perfectly compliment each other. Both have the ability to join forces and harmonize in stereophonic wailing, but Johnny also has a soothing range that grounds Jordan's piercing yelps. At times, especially in songs like "My First Kiss at the Public Execution," or "Devastaor," Jordan's voice sounds eerily Native American, like he is channeling a Navajo shaman or coyote in the body of a post-punk Cabaret singer.
Everybody needs a little devastation.
Neon black dirt in the garden. All the roses blossom into skulls this season
At first listen, you might think there is no method to the chaotic cacophony and that they are jacked up on speed or psychotropics. But every detail of their visceral assault is calculated with sobering mathematical precision. What may appear to be random yodeling or screeching noise on the album are recreated perfectly, but with enough improvisation to make it the raw and real deal. They are perfectionists. At one point a swirling atomic image was projected on the wall behind them, and when Johnny Whitney saw it, he immediately went over to a stagehand to have them remove the offending image. And while Johnny and Jordan are strutting their stuff, the rest of the band is busy providing a tight, driving backdrop for their diabolic rants.
And its not all pure adrenalin and polluted aggression. There are melodic and heartfelt moments of clarity, like in "Love Rhymes With a Hideous Car Wreck," or in the title track of their new album "Crimes." The siege is balanced with infectious riffs and lyrics that paint surreal landscapes that intertwine contrasting images of priests and peacocks, girls and switchblades, used cars and bad livers, or celebrities and scarecrows with blackbird wives--and that beautifully match the music and album art in one complete package.
got a view of a cement lawn, amputated horizons
the globe spinning on a rust hinge
there's a girl behind chicken wire coughing up ghosts
tuxedos slither off corpses and copulate wild on wedding cakes
our veins are flowing barbed wire
Or the obvious post-911 party-pooping references in:
After work we'll watch the seagulls diving in and out of the lashing towers of flame. It twinkles like a pile of rotting jewels left to bake in the sun. Is anybody listening? We're just like those condom wrappers: used up, torn up, thrown away.
I just want to join the party, but the pinata's stuffed with oil and sand.
And my personal favorite, "Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret":
Scarecrow, did you hear about that priest they found jerking off in the confession booth? His collar spinning like a top, he looked so pathetic crying to the cops. Scarecrow, did you hear about the man who locked his daughter in the basement for 12 years? They dragged her out of the house to the hungry audience.
This is the much-needed exorcism for the kids growing up in this modern world. Oh, and did I mention their rendition of Queen/Bowie's "Under Pressure" they played as an encore? Mind-blowing. Hands down the best show and album of recent years.
-- Derek White
Get The Blood Brothers at
(c) 2005 Text and Photos by Derek White.
Other miscellaneous album cover art is from the Blood Brothers website.