The Blood Brothers: Burn Piano Island, Burn

Ryan Potts

The Blood Brothers

Burn Piano Island, Burn

Label: ArtistDirect
US Release Date: 2003-03-18
UK Release Date: 2003-03-17

As a self-ascribed music critic, I am expected to attain a certain level of professionalism, to maintain composure and remain stoic: untouched, unscathed and unmoved by the music. I, by all means, am supposed to be a tier above the typical fan; the word "critic" below my byline is intended to create a layer of poise and pretension far removed from the average listener.

And I hate that. That marginalizes music. Indifferent poses and stoic stances batter and bruise your love for music into a product of consumption, an exported item sterilized of emotion. In such a critical world you might as well be writing a review for the latest edition of an algebra book. That's a world I have no part in.

But as for me? I write because I love it. I love everything about music -- the way it alters your mood, changes your perceptions, shows you the world and creates new ones for you to explore. So if you expect a sound excavation with a scalpel of loveless words beneath layer of prosaic criticism, click the X in the corner of your browser. After all, I'd much rather listen to a fanatic spew reasons they love their favorite artist than a 50 year old journalist from Rolling Stone vomit up academia-riddled verbosity that has about as much emotion as the quadratic equation. Wouldn't you?

This is also precisely how I like my music: I don't care how many chord transgressions you can make, how many time signatures you can alter between, or how many years you spent in the school of jazz. I would much rather hear the emotion deeply submerged in your heart and the sweat and blood from your six strings. This is why the Blood Brothers' third full-length opus, Burn Piano Island, Burn, is the most prolific, beautiful, and vital statement of rock since the Stooges' Raw Power.

Burn Piano Island, Burn is something that words and text fail at making sense of -- the album thrives on its innate fire to warp sound into something that's equal parts punk-noise violence, William Burroughs, The Shape of Punk to Come, sassy pop squealing, At the Drive-In, and 1984. Above all, this is rock music that punctures holes in noise, post-hardcore, and lyrical dystopia on its way to altering your perception of sound and exploding your senses. But this is also music that actually makes a statement -- not only sonically, but culturally.

The disc's 37-second opener, "Guitarmy", is the Blood Brothers' rallying cry -- "We wrapped your corvette in cellophane, set it aflame / We doused your TV set in propane" -- as it paves the groundwork for Piano Island's 11 ensuing tracks of postmodern punk rock. And embedded in those tracks is, succinctly, the sound of revolution: Burn Piano Island, Burn turns trends on their ear with punk-noise pandemonium that's bred on brains, not brawn, as it lyrically torches the societal dystopia we live in along with its sexual exploitation, skin-deep cover girls, and moral poverty. It's something that hasn't been done with so much virility, so much passion, and so much artful expanse in the history of sound.

Lighting the disc's fuse and igniting the culture shock that resides in Piano Island's 48 minutes is the vocal tandem of Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney, who scream, sing, screech, and sling lines back and forth like their lyrics are artillery shells. And Blilie's throat is like the barrel of a gun: he screams and whispers his way through lyrical surrealism as the other half of the vocal unit, Whitney, squeals and shrieks through the brattiest pop hooks and sassiest screams heavy music has ever heard. But the set of co-vocalists are like the un-hardcore leaders of hardcore: their physique and vocal aesthetic is practically feminine and vacant of every tough guy trend and testosterone-addled tendency.

However, Piano Island is the first Blood Brothers album to push their avant-hardcore attacks to its musical apex. Every track holds vivid evidence, but "Every Breath Is A Bomb" is pure musical (and cultural) mutiny. As the Blood Brothers sift twinkling piano notes into the post-hardcore symphony that explodes around it, Blilie and Whitney scream and sputter through lyrics such as, "Can you inject love's tender touch back into the gang bang? / Can you put the bite back in the beast you've broken, tied and tamed? / So doctor won't you pull the plug? / Won't you cut the cord? / Because you can't put life back into this hospital ward". As the metaphors assault our world and its lifeless corpse, drums puncture holes, the guitar tears apart coherence, while a bass grooves in the background with its keyboard accompaniment.

No matter which instruments the Blood Brothers shred into pieces, it's nothing short of incendiary: they all burn hardcore stereotypes, torch punk's commercial façade, and reveal an unprecedented extreme where guitars stab, drums stomp, and pianos, synthesizers, glockenspiels, and acoustics create an aural world to get lost in forever. And I love it. The Blood Brothers exist so far apart from every other rock collective that they're alien to the genre's now tame and docile being, yet absolutely vital to its existence as a challenging, nihilistic and brutal art form.

Burn Piano Island, Burn leaps so far past mandated musical boundaries that it's setting a learning curve for rock's next millennia; it's accelerating punk rock into a subversive, intelligent future vacant of trends, stereotypes, and sickeningly typical norms. But, even above all of that, the Blood Brothers are the ambulance that's attempting to revive our artistically ill, ignorance-riddled, emotionally impoverished culture. And with Burn Piano Island, Burn residing beneath a major label, they have just what it takes to pump life back into this comatose hospital ward that is our world -- by burning us all alive, of course.

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