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January 15th, 2003 WWeek Music Staff | Music Stories
 

Music & Nightlife

     
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PREVIEW
If You Want Blood, You Got It
Blood Brothers give mainstream rock a forcible transfusion.

Two heads are better than one--especially when both are screaming their throats raw.

Or at least that's the logic of the Blood Brothers. The Seattle quintet's ferocious dual vocalists, Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney--the former providing rasping, emotive screech and the latter adding snotty disdain--take cues from the vocal interplay of hip-hop and mix it with the intensity of screaming hardcore punk.

Although the Blood Brothers started on a lark as a fun, chaotic basement-show band taking up where early '90s hyper-underground groups like Angel Hair and Heroin left off, the group soon caught the attention of big-wig Limp Bizkit and At the Drive-In producer Ross Robinson. Now poised to leap into the mainstream with its major-label debut, Burn Piano Island, Burn, out in March, and a string of tours with "extreme rock" bands, the group is unfazed about ditching underground roots in order to expand the hive.

"When it seems like a lot of the audience has never heard us, or any music like ours, and they like it," Whitney explains, "it's a very rewarding experience."

Robinson has a knack for recognizing bands with a certain look and sound that will inspire the next slight turn of suburban trends. But will mainstream listeners and the music industry appreciate the Blood Brothers?

"Ted Fields, the CEO of Artist Direct, is willing to take risks with the bands he signs," says Whitney. "Some of the bands he discovered were never mainstream when he signed them--like Nine Inch Nails, Dr. Dre and Primus--but they caught on because the label believed in them and pushed it."

Despite the band's frenzied musical shifts and warp-speed riffs, the Blood Brothers' impressive new album also features surprisingly infectious melodic undercurrents and actual singing unheard of on two previous independent releases. Much of the album's electric piano and clean guitar interludes are reminiscent of Whitney's previous band, the art-punk quartet Soiled Doves. "Soiled Doves broke up shortly after the Blood Brothers got signed, and that sort of left a big, gaping hole in my creative life," he says.

Though the MTV Nation is about to receive some stern prodding to adopt the confrontational band as its own, Whitney claims these Brothers intend to work it out regardless. "Each of our new records will get more diverse and fucked-up," he promises. We'll check back. (Dave Clifford)

Blood Brothers play Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., 224-2038. The Used, Taking Back Sunday and New Transit Direction also appear. 8 pm. $12. All ages.

REVIEW
Album of the Year?
The Microphones stage an early raid on the trophy case with Mount Eerie.

Phil Elvrum (a.k.a. the Microphones) has spent the past five years revolutionizing lo-fi recording and breathing new life into The Album. Over those five years, Olympia's venerable K Records has reinvented itself around Elvrum's aesthetic: K artists Mirah, Little Wings and the Blow are frequent collaborators on Microphones albums and, along with label big daddy Calvin Johnson, all appear on the latest opus, Mount Eerie. Sure to be a watershed record for this new pastoral OlyWa sound, the album destroys preconceptions about how music should sound and wears Elvrum's continued refusal to let lo-fi be a limitation on its sleeve.

Elvrum starts with unorthodox instrumentation--the wind, pouring water, traffic, spoons tapping inside a glass cup--and backs it up with unique production. Sounds in real time and space, recorded as they are instead of using a computer to manipulate them, result in a stunning collage of everyday tonal qualities and studio legerdemain that is intense but never overwhelming.

However, Mount Eerie does demand two-thirds of an hour of concentration. Most likely, this disc will fail to equal the widespread critical acclaim of its predecessor, 2001's The Glow (Pt. 2). The inevitable complaint will be that it's less accessible than Elvrum's previous efforts; the first instance of anything resembling a pop song comes 10 minutes and 44 seconds into the album. As five seamless tracks clock in at more than 40 minutes, most will have trouble finding a catchy melody to whistle on the bus.

Elvrum's trademark atmospheric vocal orchestration and drawn-out drum solos correspond with his nature-boy lyrics--the former standing for wind, the latter for a storm. However, the music takes on a life of its own. Listened to at an appropriately loud volume or on headphones, songs no longer echo weather patterns or even emotional states; the album is simply a singular piece of music like you've never heard before.

Mount Eerie presents us with the continued evolution of The Album. The Glow (Pt. 2) was backed throughout with a bass drum mimicking a heartbeat. This time Elvrum has truly cobbled together Frankenstein: a record that comes to life. (Godfre Leung)

The Microphones, Mount Eerie (K Records). Released Tuesday, Jan. 21.

GOSSIP, NEWS, OPINION...ALL VAGUELY CONNECTED TO THE MUSICAL ARTS AND NIGHTLIFE ENTERTAINMENT.
HISS and VINEGAR

TRIVIAL MALFEASANCE?

Quizmonauts (and people who just want to win free beer) have long flocked to Tuesday trivia nights at Beulahland. B-land's bellowing quizmaster poses queries on topics ranging from NBA arcana to quantum physics, and the team with the most correct answers quaffs a gratis pitcher. All in good fun, of course...but are some of the quiz night's more well-known regulars cheating? Lately, little birds have been bitching to Hiss & Vinegar, alleging some of the more "locally recognizable" triv-night habitués resort to illicit cell-phone use and apparent off-site Internet research in their quest for transitory glory. Is this scandalous rumor The Horrible Truth? Or just more of Portland's beloved pastime, Completely Groundless Shit-Talk? We don't know, and our sources in the trivia underworld don't know, either. But, as always these days, we urge vigilance.

OHM BENEFIT AIDS MIND EXPANSION

The October death of Brad Willard, founder and owner of Southeast Belmont Street bookstore Psychonautical Supply, left the excellent shop adrift. Now word is, a new owner intends to take over the quality purveyor of drug-related, freethinking and obscurity-enhanced tomes. However, Willard's estate and the nonprofit he founded, the Psychonautical Research Foundation, are saddled with a stack of post mortem bills. So Willard's buddy Dale Morris, who plays guitar with local R&B suprema Linda Hornbuckle, slapped together a benefit show slated for Ohm this Thursday night. Morris assembled the bill, featuring Keith Schreiner of Dahlia and the Human Sculpture Project, with an assist from Ohm's Dan Reed, who also performs. No word on the cover charge, but the memorial's deserved and the cause is worthy.

BRITS FREAK OUT IN RAP/GAT FLAP

Remember the "punk episode" of CHiPS, when those handsome '70s motorcycle cops tackled menacing spiky-haired youth? If CHiPS were around today, it would probably need to expound with a "hip-hop episode"--and you just know scriptwriters would devise some unintentionally out-of-touch name for a fictional rap group. Like, say, "So Solid Crew." Thing is, there really is a So Solid Crew, and it's one of the U.K.'s top "urban" acts. Hey, they can't be ahead of every pop curve, now can they? So Solid Crew--a true crue, apparently, with about two dozen members--is in hot water with the British government. A few dudes from So Solid are up on gun charges; England, unlike the States, doesn't consider a "strapped posse" part of its "well-regulated militia." Atop that, last week the U.K. culture minister slammed SSC and other hip-hoppers for propagating "gun culture" in the wake of two murders in Birmingham. Those comments sparked major hoo-hah in the Brit press: Is the culture minister a racist bastard, or is hip-hop a harbinger of civilization's end? This argument, of course, has been going Stateside for what seems like generations, despite its devilishly simple solution. What if: A) hip-hop artists stopped eroticizing their arsenals; B) politicians stopped groping for the CD shelves every time a social problem cried out for diagnosis? Why, we could probably all get back to watching CHiPS reruns. Chances are, though, that neither exploitative braggadocio nor political hypocrisy will lose their market value soon, on either side of the Pond. Mo' money (or mo' votes), mo' problems, as Ponch said to Jon in the locker room. But that's another story.

Get the info to: hiss@wweek.com.

 
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