BrickBats – Music With Other Human Beings – Album Review
Post-Grunge/Hardcore-Indie band BrickBats sound determined as they instantly bring out the intensity & aggression on the first cut “Junkies” from their new record Music With Other Human Beings. Built on the combined mayhem & menace provided by Barry Reed, Michael Blount and Katy Hubbard – BrickBats are relentlessly in your face both lyrically and musically throughout the course of Music With Other Human Beings. They’re not afraid to share their perspectives…not afraid to possibly offend or unnerve the people…not afraid to turn the volume up and really get the accompanying raw-emotion built into their expressive & explosive sound. Some will dig what they do; some won’t – and you can tell from the attitude in the music of BrickBats that they’re more than likely 100% okay with the outcome either way.
Question is of course, how much work or refinement in the music they’re going to go after…rebellion & reckless abandon are part of the BrickBats charm…so I’m not sure how much observations on how polished these tunes are or aren’t would matter. I know where these guys are at and what they’re all about. I grew up in the era this sound really began to take hold of the underground…and I was certainly alive & listening to everything I could when grunge exploded…and I’ve got an autographed poster of Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van that hangs on the wall here at the studio, if that provides me any kind of legitimacy. Being electric & raw is part & parcel of a sound/style like the BrickBats have…it just is.
A four-count in and they’re off and running. “Junkies” has a punishing attack and intense presence that rips by quickly…there’s a whole lot of yelling going on…that may/may not prove to be a difficult thing for some people out there – but again, that’s the style we’re rockin’ with here in the BrickBats camp. I’d fully admit it’s not a sound I reach for on the constant – but I think there’s definitely a time/place for music like this in my world personally. I dig this kind of straight-up aggression and keeping the meat & potatoes of it all on display…each of these three players hold their own and the band itself is well balanced.
Katy brings a lot to the overall sound with the contrast of the brightness in her voice meeting the growling menace from the lead…and you get a good dose of how well that works on “Day By Day.” Overall this cut has a real familiar feel to it…there’s an extremely odd comfort in this distorted melody that I couldn’t deny. You can hear that this would be a highlight in a live set…definitely the kind of catchy chorus that works its hooks into you pretty quickly without regard for your permission. There’s kind of a classic-rock…like…old 50’s/60’s style melody that those hooks are rooted in…buried in the free-wheeling attitude and approach they take to “Day By Day.”
“Ballad Of Bert And Ernie” is kind of like Nirvana’s “Sliver” and The Kinks “All Day And All Of The Night” combined. There’s aggression but still a playfulness to the attack that has that back & forth groove in the rhythm & hook of the music…it’s not my favorite but they execute it with power and commitment. If it’s any consolation, “Sliver” was one of my least favorite Nirvana tunes and I have next to no use for The Kinks either…so I come by my conclusion on this one honestly.
Alright so…confession that’s going to make me not very popular with some of you out there coming up here… I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about either Star Trek or Star Wars, neither are better than the other and largely in my opinion, both series could vanish at any moment and it would take me several years to notice they were gone. Controversial stuff to put in print, I know. Right now one of the best things to come out of the Star Wars movies is the fact that it inspired a song here on the record from BrickBats…”Kylo.” Now…don’t get me wrong…just because I’m not dying to watch Boba Fett’s five-seconds of screen time as relentlessly as everyone else out there in the world doesn’t mean I can’t get behind an idea if it’s done RIGHT…and truthfully, “Kylo” is. I mean…this is just a smart tune any way you look at it…the energy, tone and atmosphere in the music perfectly match the grinding of the chip on the shoulders of “Kylo” – and that angst of the character is actually really well represented in the way they structured and wrote this song. I got love for smart choices like this…and what they’ve done here is a great way of writing a track that they can draw from both fiction & non-fiction to blend a powerful and gripping result. Solid track and really reminiscent of like, Bleach-era Nirvana and the Sub-Pop sound.
These hardcores better watch themselves though…between the nearly four minutes of “Kylo” and the nearly five minutes of the following track “Move Along” the rest of the scene around them is going to claim they’ve sold out and become a progressive rock band by comparison! They tend to keep it short for most of the material on Music With Other Human Beings – and between “Kylo” and the extraordinary “Move Along” – they’ve given us all the evidence we need to support why they SHOULDN’T. Alright…again…I’m over-exaggerating a bit here…I like a lot of their shorter tunes – but c’mon…”Kylo” was a wickedly solid tune and isn’t “Move Along” like, the ultimate highlight on this record? “Move Along” takes this three-piece into a self-reflective & melancholy vibe that’s as haunting as a vivid memory…great imagery in the words and CHOICES in the words…I really like how they’ve written this tune and I like that there are slight imperfections in it that add to how REAL this experience truly becomes. The combined sound of the vocals in this track is seriously magical…they might be hardcore at the end of the day but they’ve just proven without a doubt they can be beautiful too.
A track like “Life” is the kind of track I thought might come along, taking me back to my original point of ‘what exactly do I say here?’ I could tell them that “Life” sounds a bit lazy in a sense that it’s drawing on the basic chords and rhythm structure…and I could point out that each of the songs we’ve heard before and we’ll hear after all have more LIFE in them than “Life” does…but maybe they WANT it to sound like that? I wouldn’t put it past a band that creates tongue in cheek humor and scathing social commentary into their music to create a song that sounds drained of its uniqueness and ideas and calling it “Life” – that’s completely a possibility. I dunno…I don’t wanna justify it for them, I’ll leave them to explain it to you all (yeah right…bands like this don’t explain themselves…) – but I stand by the fact that they’ve put better examples of their capabilities out there already on the record prior to the experience of “Life.”
“A People” sure goes a long, long way to convince us that everybody poops and that we’re basically all the same, good or bad. Timing-wise this one feels a little bit on the looser-side of tight, but I like the deep & dark distorted chords in the guitars and the drum tones sound excellent on this tune. Lyrically, I think it’s one of the most clever examples of their lyricism…and even though a lot of those vocals are often approached with a straight-ahead, uncompromising sound…they still tend to find some melody. “A People” puts them back on the path to victory by coming back to a focus on the vocals matching the energy and pulse of the material after slightly losing their way on “Life” just moments before. BrickBats name-check and call out a lot of people in this cut in all kinds of creative & awesome ways; like…how much would it SUCK to be George Washington right now? That guy is feeling the burn, lemme tell ya.
The serious unsung hero of this record is “Jaws.” I don’t want to hold onto any illusions that a singular successful idea like this tune would potentially shape the future of this band…but…well…maybe it should? I don’t know…I know there’s a lot of raw power in some of these other tunes that I wouldn’t want them to give up…but I can’t help but feel like the tenderized approach they’ve taken to the narrative of “Jaws” through the internalized perspective and revelations of the shark that they’ve definitely stumbled into a sound that really works well for them here. Genius tune…Katy sounds absolutely gorgeous in the background vocals and the tale itself is absolutely spectacular. Truly a highlight for me on this record for music, lyrics, ideas and performances combined – this was a subtle but completely impressive tune to me and an indication that underneath all this hardcore mayhem the BrickBats create, may indeed exist another layer and deeper dimension to their depths.
“Zombies” is about as much fun as I’ve had listening to a 2.5 minute long track as I can recall having this year. This song absolutely BLAZES…the rhythm and groove are thrashing & catchy…you’d almost call this one a guilty pleasure if it didn’t make you turn it up so proudly. Between “Jaws,” “Zombies” and the final cut “Quackers” – BrickBats have created some serious highlight moments at the end of their record to really increase the impact it makes on us. “Zombies” has them at their energetic & playful best…everything about this tune pumps me right the fuck up and makes me want to go on a heavily induced bath-salt zombie rampage of my own through the city with this as my personal soundtrack. Because when going on a heavily induced bath-salt zombie rampage, one needs their ipod…that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.
I’m a melody guy through and through. Even though I grew up in the grunge-era – I always thought the best of those bands found a way to incorporate defining melodies into the layers of some of the most intensely honest & real music the world has ever seen expressed. Some of it was beautiful…some of it was bizarre…some of it was a blissful mix of those two elements, just like the final tune on Music With Other Human Beings called “Quackers.” This is the kind of endearing melody you can’t help but quickly fall in love with…and DAMMIT – these three players in BrickBats KNOW that…and therefore they’ve chosen to make sure that because we’re paying the most ultimate of attentions – they’ll sing about ducks to make us pay for it! Much like the stripped-down sound of “Butterfly” that ended Weezer’s punk/pop experience on Pinkerton – “Quackers” ends the record on a bizarrely sweet & unexpected note. I do not…at any time…on ANY day…expect that a song about ducks is going to hit me straight in the heart or make any kind of memorable impact…but alas, here we are…and I couldn’t be happier about it! I absolutely loved “Quackers” – I almost feel guilty about loving it as much as I do as I know it’s not the most accurate representation of the band’s overall sound – but this completely works. Is that a KAZOO solo at the end? Not just a solo, but like, a CHORUS-LINE of KAZOO’s? Why didn’t they TELL ME there would be KAZOOS on this record – it would have sold itself to me with that one fact alone!
All kidding aside – it makes for a strong ending to a seriously strong tune and rad final departure from BrickBats…”Quackers” hit the mark big time and left us on a beautifully positive note…kind of like the sweet dessert after an entire meal of badassery – these three are alright with me as they are. I wouldn’t want this polished any much more than it already is…I dig the raw-power and authenticity of this band and I think they’ve done a solid job of keeping my ears thoroughly entertained throughout their new record. It’s different but comfortingly familiar…you know…as far as the prickly grunge sound can be.
Find out more about BrickBats at their official page at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/757809284328968
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!