Blood on the Wall – Awesomer

Blood on the Wall – Awesomer
The Social Registry – 4 Stars

Man, when did it become “musical” and “cool” to sing off-key?  And when did I get tricked into liking it?  Blood on the Wall make an album of totally tone-def vocalisms and I fall for it like a high school dance.  Singer Brad Shanks sounds like Frank Black with his hand caught in a van door.  I personally blame Stephen Malkmus and Pavement for making such awesome music with a singer who obviously has no clue what he’s doing.
Awesomer is a sort of witch’s brew of indie rock history.  Indeed, it would be the answer to the ever-pondered question:  What would happen if Frank Black, Stephen Malkmus, and Thurston Moore had a frighteningly ugly child?  Yeah, that’s the sound of One Million Rock Critics and lonely bastards looking up from their copies of Magnet.  Pay attention, everyone, because this is a good one.
In what may be the song with the most fitting title of the year, “Get the Fuck Off My Cloud” channels the frenzy of Operation Ivy and the guitar attack of its Rolling Stone namesake.  “Mary Susan” takes the skatey paranoia of the Pixies and swerve across oncoming traffic.  Everything’s drunk and loose and frenzied and bombed-out.  But if BOTW had made a record of precisely recorded rock and roll, it would have been awful.  Instead, they come across as what they probably are:  three people who like indie rock and formed a band.  And there’s something to be said for that these days.  They’re not striving for anything monumental; they’re not trying to write the next Nevermind or even the next Good News for People Who Love Bad News.  Sure, the record gets a little boring on side 2, and the acoustic “Going to Heaven” fails largely because of Shanks’ inability to sound tender, but so what?  Blood on the Wall rarely try to be anything that they aren’t, and Awesomer is all the awesomer for it (come on, you knew I was gonna work that in somewhere).  It’s scrawled on the back of a notebook, it’s Pete & Pete for people who remember Pete & Pete.  It’s a reminder that indie rock is a bunch of uncool kids being cool.


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