Jukebox Breakdown: The Blood Brothers – “Guitarmy”
by Chad Jewett
Burn Piano Island Burn was a feral tour de force. Not quite the paranoid masterpiece that Crimes would prove to be, Piano Island was instead the album where The Blood Brothers first figured out how to shape their lacerating, acidic post-hardcore into indelible, gale-force songs, just as chaotic, but more forceful in their new sense of direction. Where the concept-heavy March on Electric Children felt like a set of narratives in search of a vessel, Burn Piano Island Burn managed to wrap the Seattle band’s penchant for sordid imagery and trenchant social critique into sharp, three minute flare-ups.
Yet the album’s most memorable song, and perhaps its best, wasn’t about anything. Instead it served as a compact, bruising call-to-arms, a self-aware mini-hurricane (in that sense, it was the closest The Blood Brothers ever came to fellow hardcore innovators Refused). “Guitarmy”, the album’s opening track, doesn’t even cross the minute marker (it clocks in at 39 seconds). Instead, it is content to begin atop a quick, coiling bird’s nest of atonal feedback before erupting in monolithic slabs of guitar, punctuating what more or less sounded like The Blood Brothers writing their own theme song: “Do you remember us? Do you remember us? / We wrapped your corvette in cellophane, set it aflame! / Do you remember us? Do you remember us? / We doused your TV set in propane, turned up the gain! / This party’s dying so guitar-me! / Raise the glass to the guitarmy! / This party’s dying.”
That’s the entirety of the song’s lyric — a brash burst of fashion-forward nihilism, hinting at the album’s bitter take on consumerism (cars and TVs, like other capitalist items, become entropic totems) but largely drawing attention to just how efficient the band’s engine had become. Indeed, “efficient” is the only way to describe the song’s structure, a spartan thing of beauty built around spare, oblique chords and a pounding, utilitarian drum figure. If Burn Piano Island Burn is largely defined by a certain brand of queasy, illicit imagism, then “Guitarmy” is a work of brutalist architecture, thrillingly literal and tangibly solid. Normally, Blood Brothers’ aesthetic is almost entirely founded on the offsetting shriek of Johnny Whitney and the shredded bark of Jordan Blilie. Here the voices largely blend into one simultaneous shriek. The album to which it serves as introduction is constantly writhing and lashing out; “Guitarmy” simply lands with a glaring punk-apocalyptic thud.