The Blood Brothers
oung Machetes is like taking away an ADHD patient's ritalin and letting him run around in a janitor's closet. There are fifteen songs on the album, but you wouldn't be able to tell unless you had the track listing. Songs will play out logically and then suddenly change-up and do something else entirely. Some will have five separate riffs and melodies. Others have ten. It's an incredibly difficult album to get a grasp on, and the first time around will most likely give you a headache.
Even with the profusion of detours, tempo shifts, and “explorations,” Young Machetes never feels terribly pretentious. In fact, it can still claim to be a "hardcore" album. There's ear-splintering, totally incomprehensible shrieking, rowdy sing-along choruses, drum fills galore, and a barrage of barbed-wire guitar. There’s even fragments of emo, post-punk, disco, and pop. Partial credit at least has to go to the production team of John Goodmanson (Sleater Kinney, Unwound) and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi, duh)—experts at pushing the boundaries of hardcore. Together, they help bring (a little) order to the chaos that the Blood Brothers unleash.
The Blood Brothers are on to something, but they're not quite there yet. The emo, almost "indie" parts of Young Machetes are pretty much unbearable. Jordan Billie is a remarkable singer, a blonde pretty boy with a shriek that puts burly musclemen to shame, but when he and co-lead singer Jordan Whitney try to tackle the album's slower moments, they come up short. On "Lift the Veil, Kiss the Tank," Billie sounds like he's doing an impression of Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker (not a good thing). When it's bad, Billie and Whitney come off as pompous or, worse, overbearing, ironically magnifying the album's claustrophobia while shifting away from its sense of humor.
Nevertheless, Young Machetes proudly showcases one of the most unusual acts presently signed to a major label. Any band whose first single ("Laser Life") features the line, "We watch crabs and lobsters eat a dead cop's throat and stuff our mouths with gutted stereos," deserves a round of applause. That sense of humor is part of Young Machetes' charm. One song is called, "You're the Dream, Unicorn!", and begins with the delightful passage, "This telepathic hangover gnaws the nipples off my neck," while "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds," does disco straight-faced, even as it steps through the politically charged lyrics: "You turn on the radio, the speakers spit tangled talk / Everything is war and who's fucked their way to the top." Juvenile? Yes. But juvenility isn't a bad thing when it's done well, and the same goes for Young Machetes. Its unbearable tendencies are avoidable because they're overshadowed by bursts of creativity. Hopefully, next time, there'll be explosions.