The Blood Brothers
…Burn, Piano Island, Burn
Hardcore should be a dead genre. Its spirit is ostensibly lost and forgotten while its body is still being dragged through the streets, an angry spectacle and aggression outlet for rebellious kids. It’s a rare event when a group of these kids abscond with hardcore’s zombie-fied body and actually attempt to revive the old boy instead of just having their fun and dumping him in the gutter again. Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come was the last time hardcore sounded genuinely fresh. It was the unlikely combination of traditional instrumentation with jazz and electronic leanings that propped hardcore up for the duration of the album. Unfortunately, Refused collapsed under the weight, leaving the genre to languish for a half decade in the usual, unoriginal hands.
The Blood Brothers’ •Burn, Piano Island, Burn picks up directly where Refused left off, only this time the music is accessorized with electric pianos, acoustic guitars, and xylophones. Although every track rightly deserves its place in the screamo hall of fame, songs like “Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon” and “The Salesman, Denver Max” deserve a bit more attention. “Cecilia•” is centered on the warm pulse of an electric piano, which acts like a newly transplanted heart. When it leaves the mix for the dizzy-headed and disorienting middle eight, singers Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney cry out, “where is love now?” The beat returns shortly thereafter, leading the song to its inevitable end, a sputtering of electro-ed hospital sounds as the piano heartbeat stops. “Denver Max” begins with an off-key acoustic guitar introducing, on slightly ominous terms, the title character. When the wall of sound hits, Max’s murderous intentions thunder at full force. Later in the song, all instruments drop out leaving a sparse bass line to fill the silence as Max makes muffled threats to listener. It’s a very spooky scene.
Blilie and Whitney’s lyrics are complete nightmares. Both singers spit urban decay like rabid jackals, wrestling for the crown of post-modern g(l)ory. Lines like “I vomited my skeleton and donated it to the war mausoleum,” “those pigs locked me up to see what color I’d rot into” and “tonight my body is crucified across the cactus that our love grew” along with other, more graphic lyrical images, leave no doubt that these guys know hardcore is just as atrophied and blight-stricken as the cities that breed it. The standard confrontational political lyrics are sublimated, leaving a rapid-fire social commentary of horrific imagery to affect the same message. It’s quite remarkable.
Although it would be premature to label •Burn, Piano Island, Burn as the new shape of punk to come, its nightmarish and compelling energy will be more than enough to keep hardcore from decomposing for a little while, which is something I wouldn’t have thought possible.