Widescreen evolution from former Blood Brothers punks.
Mike Diver 2010-03-11
Anyone under the impression that Seattle’s music scene sighed its last when Kurt Cobain breathed his clearly hasn’t been paying attention. Since the turn of the millennium, bands like Minus the Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, Pretty Girls Make Graves and The Blood Brothers – each spiky of riff, intelligent of lyric, and with appeal far wider than the punk pigeonhole – have helped to shape a new soundtrack to the Pacific Northwest.
Of the above-listed quartet, The Blood Brothers were definitely the most divisive. Across five albums, culminating with 2006’s excellent Young Machetes, they explored wholly fresh post-hardcore tangents, their exploratory nature taking them beyond peers busy stagnating in convention. Twin vocalists Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney were something of an opinion-splitter, though; for every individual who loved the squeal-shriek dynamic of their lyrical synergy, there were three who couldn’t stomach it.
Blilie now fronts Past Lives, his voice warmer, backed by ex-Blood Brothers Morgan Henderson and Mark Gajadhar. Completing the four-piece is guitarist Devin Welch, who himself was a member of The Blood Brothers in their earliest days. But anyone expecting their sound to be a continuation of the frenetic fare of said former project will be left puzzled: Tapestry of Webs is as far away from hardcore as a band can get without falling into prog-rock traps, a bright assortment of neatly stitched arrangements that latch to the memory surreptitiously.
A comparable contrast is the one presented by At the Drive-In and the subsequent all-bets-are-off endeavours of core members Cedric and Omar, whose releases as The Mars Volta have never been dull. Compared to The Blood Brothers, Past Lives are prog incarnate; yet dissection of their work here reveals a far simpler formula than what initially presents itself. The four are restricted to some degree by their make-up, with Henderson handling much of the multi-instrumentalist demands, but the ideas are solid. The parps of brass, meanwhile, conjure parallels with Sweep the Leg Johnny and Rhythm of Black Lines – it’s nothing quite as sui generis as the latter’s befuddling brews, but certainly defies easy categorisation.
Those taken by Past Lives’ Strange Symmetry EP of 2009 will also discover they’ve progressed considerably, many a lingering punk edge sanded and polished. Not that there’s an absence of passion, far from it, but these musicians have learned how to articulate themselves in a way that better communicates their wild, widescreen imaginations.