Blood On The Wall
The Social Registry
rom the ambiguously unsettling band name to the amount of effort required to track down a copy of the album from the ultra-chic and ultra-small Social Registry label, Awesomer, Blood On The Wall’s sophomore album, puts a lot of weight into first impressions. It’s noisy, it’s from Manhattan and it’s young. Toss in rumbles about notoriously ribald shows and the “local” buzz, and filling in the blanks seems like a job already completed.
More than a dress-up act for sibling pair Courtney and Brad Shanks, for most of Awesomer, the band (along with drummer Miggy Littleton) hits all the highlights of the “noise” world tour and never lingers too long in one place on this, their second full-length. In lieu of pushing themselves forward, the sibling-run trio savors their stare down with the masters and produces some engaging, strong moments.
Like every good schoolchild, they know their Siouxsie & the Banshees, Pere Ubu, and Pixies cover to cover. While they shamelessly borrow from all their catalogues, Blood On The Wall never loses it’s own shape. Now their shape is incredibly soft and malleable; that’s because their noise sweet tooth isn’t in full bloom yet. In Awesomer’s thirty minutes, it tears at jumpy dirt rock (“Stoner Jam”) with egg-timer, start-stop guitars just as capably as it mainlines classic Banana Album dirge (“I’d Like To Take You Out Tonight”). No real theme emerges; Courtney and Brad switch off as lead vocalist and even the noise grabs at different personas.
“Mary Susan” sprints back and forth with a long-gaited bass, Brad yelping, “her eyes have closed tight / She’s been looking too long into those lights” and Courtney whispering behind him. Oh, and there’s a huge, meat-grinder chorus between the minstrel verses. Now which musical figure might be standing over this song? Good students for sure, even if their goals are a bit transparent. “Get The Fuck Off My Cloud” is a McLusky wraith, fretting its hundred seconds with an adolescent blow-up of coppery guitars.
By ignoring Pound’s old maxim to “make it new,” Awesomer finds plenty that’s new to them. Stupid as it is to place your chips on the band’s future, this album does sound like a sharp period of pubescent art. Plenty of songs shipwreck in parts, try to ignore lyrical groaners like “look into the sun / And realize you are the chosen one,” and aside from “Mary Susan,” a Rid Of Me turn from Courtney on “Dead Edge of Town” and the 154 hopscotch in “You Are A Mess,” the songs can blur together.
Ambition is a dirty word in indie-rock (probably as destructive as it is in rap), but Blood On The Wall is quite suited for their constant voyages into the bodies of other people’s sound. A generous reading of their music is that they’re following the classic rule of art: find your own voice by following others. At the end of 30 minutes, this academic and visceral love-letter to noise looks like a bloodied and wisely unsatisfied plagiarist. Class is officially over.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2005-12-09