Last year, the Blood Brothers dropped Burn Piano Island, Burn a fiery, scorching beast of a record that made many year end top ten lists (including mine). Featuring two singers, the Blood Brothers pit the combative vocals of Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney against a train wreck of squalling guitars and galloping drums. Thus, it was with a bit of a surprise to hear a very similar voice come out of speakers when I put Soiled Life into my CD player.
Formed in Seattle, Washington during the late ‘90s as dance-punks the Vogue, the group eventually transformed into a four-piece, and called themselves Soiled Doves. Featuring the Blood Brothers’ vocalist Johnny Whitney, the parallels between the two groups didn’t end there as both groups played angular, off-kilter hardcore. Where the Blood Brothers are continually insistent, refusing to reign in their thundering tunes for even a moment, Soiled Doves were scrappier, allowing for more dissonance, noise, and space. While recording their debut full-length, Soiled Doves disbanded as Whitney’s Blood Brothers were eager to tour and record following the success of their first album, This Adultery Is Ripe. With the growing success of the Blood Brothers, GSL has decided to issue the shelved album nearly three years after it was first committed to tape.
Given the time that has passed since the band stepped into the studio to record, it is surprising how contemporary Soiled Life still sounds. Liars, Ex Models, Q and Not U, and the Desert Fathers are just some of the bands that seem to echo Soiled Doves’ richly awkward, yet somehow rhythmic guitar lines.
From the opening seconds of “Black Cactus Choir”, the Soiled Doves hurl you into their world. Whitney’s howl soars over the delightfully intricate work of guitarist Devin Welch. But by the end of the track, the Soiled Doves are sure to let the listener know they are no Blood Brothers knock-off. The final 50 seconds finds Whitney’s vocals cut up and placed atop a spastic wah-wah guitar, completely turning the tempo of the song on its head.
As the disc proceeds, Soiled Doves seem to get even more comfortable with the studio process, adding some polished touches to their raw sound. “Soiled Doves” begins with a long percussion driven introduction that sounds like the whole band has got some kind of a drum in their hands. “Hunter Gatherer (The Saga Continues)” finds a cello coupled with the guitar, though the typically classical instrument is even more (tastefully) abrasive than its rock ‘n’ roll counterpart.
Soiled Doves biggest asset is found in vocalist Johnny Whitney. Unlike most hardcore vocalists who are content to just scream until their lungs give out, Whitney, even at this early point in his musical career, clearly has his role as a vocalist mapped out in his head. Refusing to simply yell on top of the music, Soiled Life finds Whitney employing vocal overdubs and dare I say phrasing his delivery like few punk rock vocalists do. In light of the Blood Brothers dual vocal attack, it is interesting to see where the style found its roots.
Surpassing the disappointment inducing tag of “side-project”, Soiled Doves were truly a band unto their own. Still fresh despite a few years on the shelf, Soiled Life will easily hold Blood Brothers fans as they eagerly await the group’s follow-up to last year’s smash Burn Piano Island, Burn.