Blood on the Wall - Awesomer (Cover Artwork)

Blood on the Wall

Awesomer (2005)

The Social Registry

I've often wondered what I would do with access to a time machine. Where would I go? What would I see? I'm sure most people have had similar thoughts. This question commonly arises on message boards or during chemically-aided late-night conversations, and I've noticed that we music fans always come up with a similar answer. That one great show, that one long gone band that we were too young or unlucky to see. We can enjoy this music through recordings, but it's just not the same as being there.

It really seems like all of the greatest music was made before I was born or old enough to attend shows. There is an indie revolution occurring currently with new and exciting bands gaining recognition every year. But I'd trade every Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene show for a chance to see the Ramones or Talking Heads at CBGBs, the Clash and Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, the Germs at The Whiskey. Velvet Underground, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement... There are so many. These bands did music the right way and they did it best. That's why we feel we've missed out.

Constantly, bands are being praised for their originality when they are really just points Y and Z on a long musical road map. Every once in a while, though, a band comes along that seems out of place. A band that helps us relive these musical glory days that we wish we had been a part of. The most recent band to do this is Blood on the Wall. With Awesomer, the New York trio brings to mind everything from mid-seventies garage punk to early-nineties alernative rock.

BOTW describe themselves as "a brother, a sister, and a brother." Siblings Brad and Courtney Shanks take care of the vocals and strings while New York hardcore veteran and African-American "brother" (haha, now I get it) Miggy Littleton is on drums. Courtney (straight out of the Kim Gordon school of singing) takes the mic on album opener "Stoner Jam" and the riff sounds like Sonic Youth covering "Foxy Lady." This is quickly followed by "Reunite on Ice," led by Brad. His voice can best be described as Jack White impersonating Frank Black. Imagine this over a fuzzy My Bloody Valentine composition and you've got the song. Speaking of MBV, Courtney's voice begins to sound a little more Bilinda Butcher soft and pretty and less Kim Gordon loud and abrasive with "I'd Like to Take You Out Tonight," which sounds like an Isn't Anything B-side. Another highlight would be "Mary Susan," which sounds remarkably similar to "Where Is My Mind?" but with a more raucous chorus. Ripping off the Pixies is nothing new, but it's a lot more noticeable with Brad's Frank Black impersonator voice. That voice is really the closest to the real thing that I've ever heard, and it's going to immediately draw any Pixies fans to this band. "Right to Lite Tonight" sounds like FB fronting Gang of Four while the closing ballad "Going to Heaven" (no monkeys) is very similar to some of his Americana work with the Catholics.

Now, this is, so you want some punk right? Well there is plenty on this album. Many of the Courtney-led tracks sound like they'd fit better in 1977 New York. "Heat from the Day" bounces along with thick Cramps-like bass and "Keep Your Eyes" sounds like it could've been recorded during the same session as the Misfits' "Last Caress." But brother Brad can bring the punk as well. "Gone" would've fit in nicely on Wire's Pink Flag while hardcore track "Hey, Hey" could've been penned by a 19-year-old Ian Macaye. "Get the Fuck Off My Cloud," with its trebly surfish guitar, reminds me of the Dead Kennedys and when Brad screams "Hey! You! Get off of my cloud!" it might as well be "MTV get off the air."

Blood on the Wall is not the main project for any of its members. They just record and play live for fun. That's a bit of a shame, because this is one of the few bands that kind of eases the pain of missing out on some of those classic bands, and Awesomer is one of the few records this year that was actually compelling and exciting the whole way through. Hopefully we'll hear more from them in the future and, who knows, maybe one day some kid will wish he'd been around to see Blood on the Wall.

P.S. I gave this an 8 just because I didn't think it was quite worth a 9. It's more like an 8.5.