The alleyway beside Clwb Ifor Bach looks strangely desolate as 9pm approaches, save the presence of an enormous orange tour bus, which emits a welcome blast of petrol-smelling heat. For on this freezing January evening, Cardiff’s premier alternative venue is hosting a band of no little stature. Seattle five-piece The Blood Brothers have now been together for a decade, and recently released a fifth full-length record to their grateful cult following. Where is everyone, though?
Way up on the top floor of the Clwb, you would not have guessed that this was a sold out event. A clutch of darkly-clad onlookers mill around the floor as support act Help, She Can’t Swim pump out tracks from their new LP The Death Of Nightlife.
Attempting to win over such an ambivalent crowd is no easy task, but despite this obstacle it still felt as though the Indie-disco-punk outfit could have done more. Very quickly, an air of monotony started to arise from the stage, with the band showing an over-reliance on one-finger keyboard hooks and Courtney Love-esque vocal. Energetic and professional, yes; unique and encapsulating, no.
Not to disappoint The Blood Brothers tear into new single Set Fire To The Face On Fire, taken from recent release Young Machetes. The double-pronged vocal of The Blood Brothers, the high-pitched Johnny Whitney and the rasping Jordan Blilie, give the band a frenetic edge that is occasionally quite stunning, and both frontmen throw themselves around the limited stage space with frenzied verve.
With more attention paid to hooks that perhaps the band had previously shown, this opening number pulsates with a roaring energy, and is very probably a gateway to increased commercial success. Putting aside monetary gain, The Blood Brothers are, first and foremost, a post-hardcore band of immense brutality.
Granted, frequent dance-fuelled beats may mask this side of the bands music, but particularly in older material, such as Ambulance vs Ambulance. Lines such as “Just remember we’re coming back for your children,” aptly display this malice. Both visually and musically, the band never let the tempo drop, with the exception of Henderson, who stands glowering from beneath his enormous beard with almost seminal repose.
Down on the floor, a significantly heated audience, featuring a half-hearted circle pit, bounce around to Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck, Trash Flavoured Trash and Peacock Skeleton With Crooked Feathers, all tracks from the acclaimed 2004 release Crimes. There is little to no band interaction with their audience, but the cheers that greet the end of each number suggests that nobody is giving this lack of recognition much thought.
The Brothers new material, the pick of which being Laser Life and the venomous Vital Beach, does not show much of a departure from the band’s recognised style, with pulsating keyboard hooks and shredding guitar riffs combining expertly with brutal double-vocal work to create a ferocious yet accessible form of entertainment. Set closer Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon is perhaps the band’s biggest crowd favourite, the chanted outro “Where is love now,” just crying out to be hollered back at the vocalists.
Ultimately it is this crowd-pleasing element that keeps interest swirling around The Blood Brothers, and if they can capitalise on this, performances in so intimate a venue will soon be a thing of the past. Definitely worth braving the cold for, then.