If it's possible for any young band to inherit the fanbase and hardcore cred of the Blood Brothers, the newly-formed Blood Cells are the best candidate. Aside from the similarity in the band's names, Blood Cells' are aligning themselves--whether intentionally or coincidentally--with the Blood Brothers' legacy during two shows this weekend. Tonight they'll open for Past Lives (all four members are former Blood Brothers) at the Sunset; last night, they opened for Johnny Whitney and Cody Votolato's project, Jaguar Love.
Jaguar Love played with Blood Cells at the Vera Project last night.
Blood Cells' performance at the Vera Project last night was only the band's third live showing since forming in December, after the break-up of Schoolyard Heroes. In some ways, the band is still struggling to break free from its predecessors: Ryann Donnelly's melodic, feminine-but-tough vocals are the trademark of both bands, as are Iron Maiden-influenced guitar solos. But the music they're making now is different--it's more experimental and challenging, less horrorpunk, and even has twinges of pop. Donnelly sounded more like Karen O on Fever to Tell than like Glen Danzig.
The last song of Blood Cell's set last night--I didn't catch the title, and it's not one of the two songs posted on their MySpace page--found that weird, hard-to-find balance between ear-bleeding noise and palatable pop. Donnelly's sang pitch-perfect "woahs" and "oohs" over a pop-punk melody for a few bars before the song disintegrated into screams over a guitar breakdown. The song ended by falling out of key into heavy reverb. It's a similar formula--weirdness that is still listenable--that propelled the Blood Brothers from obscurity into youth phenomenon. It's been more than two years since the Blood Brothers broke up and more than 12 years since the band formed; somewhere in between those two events, post-hardcore fell far out of fashion in the Seattle music scene. There's the possibility that a band like Blood Cells, along with their legions of young fans, could change that.
Blood Cells sound much more like the Blood Brothers than Jaguar Love do now, which, for Votolato and Whitney, is saying something. They're both such unique musicians--Whitney with his tortured child wail, and Votolato with his uber-technical guitar--that, to some extent, any project they're both in will echo the Blood Brothers. But everything about Jaguar Love sounds like it's moving away from post-hardcore. Maybe it's the replacement of drummer Jay Clark with a drum machine last year, or the band's move to Portland the year before. (Or maybe these two guys are just getting older, and they're trying something new). Whitney makes a bona fide attempt on most of the band's new, techno-tastic songs to actually sing on key and create a discernible rhythm with his vocals. Sometimes, Whitney and Votolato even sing together, which doesn't always work, and sounds sort of like two dudes attempting karaoke over a drum machine. ("Up All Night" is a good example.)
There are some songs, like "I Started a Fire" or "Sad Parade," that actually do work: they're melodic without falling apart or becoming too messy. But they are also incredibly strange, highyl experimental, super loud, and totally out of control. Jaguar Love sounds like music born out of chaos, and in this way, they're still keeping the Blood Brothers' legacy alive.