LOCUST, LIGHTING BOLT, ARAB ON RADAR, GET HUSTLE
Graceland, 381-3094, $10
7 p.m. Fri., Aug. 2
I speak producer Ross Robinson's name the way the characters in The Usual Suspects speak Keyser Soze's: with the utmost trepidation and apprehension. Robinson was the dark controlling force behind the trailer-gangsta insurgence (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot), yet he recently pulled a Darth Vader, abetting unconventional, arty endeavors from At the Drive-In, Glassjaw, and the Blood Brothers.
I'd ask the real Ross Shady to please stand up, but the more pressing issue is Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, dude—the Blood Brothers are in bed with the motherfuckin' major leagues! The Blood Brothers! The five Seattle kids who've released two barely-20-minute LP's worth of borderline incoherent, splatter-punk sex rants. The Paradox fixtures who snottily exhort you to "polish that poison snatch" and "nail your crotch to the hive of pleasure!"
We all pay a price, in this world or the next. Robinson—who recently completed sessions with the band in California— punished his new lieges by (gasp!) playing American Movie in a 24/7 loop while they recorded.
"[We couldn't] even try to put on a different film," bassist Morgan Henderson bitches during a late June sound check at the Showbox. "You know, something somewhat intelligent."
"Like what, Waking Life?" vocalist Jordan Billie chirps, giggling nastily. "Your little stream-of-consciousness bullshit? You want something more, kinda, Ethan Hawke-y?"
The lads enjoy busting each other's balls, but their ensuing earnest declaration that American Movie is a thematic complement to their new record (due in January 2003) makes sense. What are the Blood Brothers, after all, but an optimistic gang of true believers who want to bring an implausible, self-stylized horror show to apple-cheeked suburban America?
Regrettably, the new material will not further chronicle the adventures of the depraved cast of nymphomaniacs that Billie and co-screecher Johnny Whitney invented for this year's March on Electric Children (Three One G).
"We had this whole story line in mind," begins Billie, a dead ringer for Ferris Bueller's Day Off icon Cameron Frye. "We wanted to touch on the juxtaposition between a world where people are concerned with things that actually mean something—whether it be emotional, friendships, etc.—and a world where everything is completely empty and decadent, and the steps that one takes to get from one [world] to the other."
The latter sphere is populated with unique Bowie-esque characters like Mr. Electric Ocean, the Skin Army, and Scissor Lips, but Billie bails when I press for more. Fresh from the merch table marches Whitney, a debonair blond mop top who looks right at me and delivers a wonderfully quotable, fluid expository monologue.
"I wanted [March on] to show how youth culture is exploited through sexual media," Whitney says. "Mr. Electric Ocean is a metaphor for the powers that be that manipulate sexuality as a concept into something that's profitable and, in effect, warps it into something that's not beautiful any more. The Skin Army is a metaphor for the generation that we're a part of and how everything is so intertwined with everything sexual. If you believe the bullshit and the idea that all you are is the sum of your physical attributes, then that's Skin Army. All you have is your skin, everything that's exterior.
"There's a main character that flows through the whole record, this woman who's searching for recognition, and instead of looking within herself and finding something that's meaningful, she looks to the exterior, buying into the sexual media."
These concepts are laudably ambitious but tangled in a swamp of guttural squealing and disjointed, train-wreck time changes. It's perhaps just as well that the Blood Brothers are eschewing concept album continuity.
"If that's all you set out to do every record, you become a mockery of yourself," Billie shrugs. "Like, how many times has Gwen Stefani written about [her ex-boyfriend] bass player? It gets old after a while."
Fifteen feet away, a stagehand begins checking mikes, inundating my micro-cassette recorder with supersonic "yeahs" and "uh-huhs." A bewildered Whitney looks over as if ALF has just started beat-boxing.
"Wow, that's gonna be fucking annoying when you're trying to listen to the tape," he crows. "HEY! YEAH! UH-HUH!"
"YEAHHHH!" Billie joins in, slurring. "HEY! UH-HUH! YEAH!"
"YEAH! UH-HUH!" Whitney replies. "YEAH! YEAH! UH-HUH!"
Intellectual portion of feature concluded.
Flash forward exactly one month. The Blood Brothers' van is loping through the Florida sticks. They've been touring with acts like Pretty Girls Make Graves and Cancer Conspiracy, but the most volatile combination? The Blood Brothers and the city of Virginia Beach.
"After the show, we went to this trashy place called Club Excess," Billie volunteers. "We were all drinking, and I got on top of a mailbox and tried to rip down their sign. This guy who was trying to rip it down after me sold me out to the cops. He was like, 'I was trying to fix it! It was that guy!' It was so ridiculous. They threatened me with 12 days of jail, but nothing really came of it."
But that's as risqu頡s these boys get. Billie assures me that the Brothers are simply nice guys, if not a bit wary of the shit talk that, well, stories like this one could propagate. Indeed, there's irony in that the Blood Brothers, now on former Interscope CEO Ted Field's boutique label ARTISTDirect, could be marketed as the very type of sexual mannequins their lyrics scorn.
"We're not gonna have Blood Brothers lunch boxes and thermoses," Billie vows. "I do realize that we're all young, fairly thin, have cute smiles, and that's something that people like to see. I think it's a shame but . . . there's no way for me to predict how we're gonna do and what's gonna happen. We're not gonna turn into monsters, you know?
"I don't want us to be played at a frickin' hockey game," he stresses. "I don't want to write the next sports anthem."