PAST LIVES – Tapestry of Webs (2010)

There’s a good many reasons for people to remember uber-punks savages The Blood Brothers; after all, their music burst out of your speakers like shrapnel – sharp, vicious, born to wound, and fully ready to. But the thing that hangs in my mind most is the screams – those agonizing, bloodcurdling, lacerating wails – delivered “courtesy” of Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney. Sure, when both men were singing, they sounded like first-generation relatives of Claudio Sanchez or Cedric Bixler-Zavala. But when they screamed…man, you’d have to go deep into the depths of black metal to find anything as comparably visceral and earsplitting violent (Xasthur’s Malefic comes to mind, off the top of my head). Now, The Blood Brothers may have parted ways in 2007, but Past Lives has three of their former members (Johnny Whitney is absent here, as is guitarist Cody Votolato), so it’s reasonable to come at Tapestry of Webs with certain expectations – most of which the album wisely doesn’t fulfill.

To begin with, Jordan’s vocals are much more restrained; we only catch a fleeting glimpse of his wolverine-in-a-rusty-bear-trap shrieks here. [other differences] Overall, the album sounds kind of like Pavement trying their hand at a three-chord punk album – it’s energetic, but it’s not straightforward in the least; if you’ll excuse the puns, it’s slanted and crooked. The chords here mash up against one another without much regard for their own well-being (the crashing of riffs and drumwork Hex Takes Hold, for example). And (unsurprisingly) Tapestry of Webs is unafraid to indulge in oddities (the bass clarinet ruminations on At Rest, the multi-instrumental throes cacophony on K-Hole), though thankfully, they don’t carry on this final point until it becomes an excessive gimmick. Unfortunately, the album isn’t always firing on all cylinders, but when Past Lives strike gold, they do it with gusto (There Is A Light So Bright It Blinds, unrelated to the A Silver Mt. Zion song, is better than the whole of the final Blood Brothers album, Young Machetes).

Between this album and The Unwinding Hours’ debut, I’m convinced that (for the most part), music doesn’t ever really leave people; if it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood, and, to paraphrase Charles Bukowski, you keep creating it until you die, or until it dies in you. On the one end of the spectrum, this explains how someone like Justin Broadrick can release multiple albums and splits collaborations per year, and how Jeff Mangum can fall virtually silent over the past decade. For my part, I’m glad the forces behind The Blood Brothers didn’t fall silent – though I confess, I miss those dueling screams.

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