Blood For Blood – Livin’ in Exile
1999 – Victory Records
I didn’t hear about Blood For Blood until I was relatively old and definitely way out of their target audience. I don’t know if they were popular in Edmonton earlier on or if the friend who accidentally called me out on not knowing them was being an ass by assuming (ha ha) that I knew who they were, but I was 25 before I first heard their name (or remembered their name anyway). When I came up for the idea for this blog yesterday, they were one of the first bands I thought of when I tried to think of what I should listen to, so I picked up Livin’ in Exile and listened to it on my way to work this morning.
Blood For Blood got together in 1995 and put out their first album in 1997. Livin’ In Exile was put out in 1999 and was the band’s second release on Victory and, if the album titles and commentary on their webpage are any indication, a pretty good thematic represenation of what BFB is all about. The album starts off with kind of a tougher-sounding Sweater Song (Weezer, dummies) bar-sounds montage. The Blood For Blood version includes lots of Boston accents and clinkin glasses, and it kind of keeps up for the whole album. Every single song has at least some bar-room chatter, including what sounds like the singer ordering draft beers.
Like I said, I’m way outside the demographic this album was made for. Sure, I feel marginalized and beaten down sometimes, but BFB are doing it for the working class. They’re doing it for the “white trash” and the people in prison, and the street people, and the good guys who lost their jobs, which, I think, is nice. The thing that confuses me about this album (well, the band, really, more than the album) is that they’re nihilists. Blood For Blood don’t write working-class music like Billy Bragg (“there is power in the uuuuuuunion”) or even the working-class Oi bands like Cock Sparrer or Sham 69. Blood For Blood write music whose central message is not “rise up” or “rebel” but “fuck you,” and I suppose I get but don’t get it.
Blood For Blood do are mad at society (I know because they say so a bunch of times on the album), but hey don’t seem to know what to do about it or care. If this sounds like a criticism, I don’t mean it to be. I dont dislike it or think it’s stupid; I just don’t understand it. That could very well be because really I’m a rich (well, my family has a bunch of money, though I am unabashedly broke all the time) white girl with a bunch of education, which I don’t say to sound like a rich white girl looking down her nose at the working class. I guess if I’d spent my entire life feeling like there was nothing I could do about anything, I might understand nihilism better, but I don’t, and I can’t, and now I’m writing all about me. Sorry.
The album itself is made up of pretty straightforward “hardcore” punk, which sounds very much like it’s from the time it’s from, which is the late 90s. There are a few more than three chords here, but this is music that needs to be playable drunk (I suspect), which is to say it’s not terribly technical. Again, this maybe sounds like a criticism, but it’s not. The simple structure of the songs suits the content and the aesthetic of the band, and there are some pretty awesome catchy riffs in there too. Oh, and the last track is a live cover of Ace of Spades by Motorhead, so that was pretty rad.
The overall impression this album left me with was that it was a pretty good punk album but that I was probably missing a big part of the reason that Blood For Blood are such an important band to a bunch of people. Also, I was surprised by how “soft” it was. Okay, it wasn’t “soft” per se, like enya or something, but after reading the Victory Records description of the band as one of the “hardest” bands out there (and I’d normally just dismiss this as record company bluster, but BFB have a reputation for being a super hard band), I was expecting something shocking like the first time I ever heard a Ripchordz song. Maybe music in general is harder than it was 10 years ago, or maybe there are more bands making harder music now, or maybe there are more people listening to harder music now, but Blood For Blood sounded like a pretty average punk band to me (albeit one with some pretty bleak and violent ideas about society). Really, I was a lot more surprised by their politics (“fuck you”) than I was by their music.
Well, there you have it. I said I’d write something about some album, and I did. See you all tomorrow!
Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Galactic – From the Corner to the Block
Blood for Blood – Living in Exile
Vancougar – Canadian Tuxedo
T-Bone Burnett – Tooth of Crime
Al Green – Lay It Down
Night Marchers – See You In Magic
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves – Roll With You
Ramones – Pleasant Dreams
Mudhoney – The Lucky Ones
Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta