The Blood Brothers: Burn, Piano Island, Burn

The Blood Brothers
Burn, Piano Island, Burn

The Blood Brothers' first two albums were shell-shocked punk filled with screams, shouts, shrieks, and squeals, but devoid of dynamics or taste. Which, obviously, made them truly righteous. The fourth song from their incredible new disc, Burn, Piano Island, Burn, is called "Every Breath Is a Bomb," a title that succinctly covers the Seattle quintet's past approach. But this time, the Bros have realized (to paraphrase Morrissey, who would dig this disc's melodrama but hate its sound) that some bombs are bigger than others: BPIB pairs the band with mega-modern-rock producer Ross Robinson (king of overly tasteful acts like Limp Bizkit and Korn), and sometimes it's hooks, not venom, they're spitting.

The breath of singers Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie is just as atomic on BPIB as it was on the band's first two discs (2000's This Adultery Is Ripe and 2002's March On Electric Children, both excellent). Whitney's nasal scream is the more prominent of the two (think Fugazi's Guy Picciotto), but Blilie's raspy yawp sounds like Kathleen Turner getting her toenails ripped out. Their snotty scowls rise to smirks as Johnny, Jordan, and their cohorts flirt with melody like a hooker with a trick. On "Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon," Whitney repeatedly bellows "Where is love now?" with cock-eyed conviction, but follows the question by sneering, "ba-ba-baaaaaa-bum-bum," mocking his own attempt to carry a tune. The title (and best) cut (its tablature would look like a Jackson Pollock canvas) follows a similar pattern: Both Blilie and Whitney repeatedly scream, "Burn, piano island, burn," like Piggy wailing for his stolen specs, but the song eventually succumbs to a jangly guitar riff and a harmonized vocal line.

BPIB tugs between noise and tune and ends in a draw. The negotiation builds tension in the band's already-taut songs because it's never clear when skronky bombast or a pained croon will erupt. But the album is best when it's both dissonant and melodic, like on "The Shame." A U2 anthem ripped to jagged shreds, it builds with thunderous drums, shards of noise, and gorgeous music, but cuts off abruptly mid-crescendo. It's the best kind of cock-tease--the one that makes you want more more more more more more more.

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