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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Blenderhead is a remnant from the so-called "glory days" of Tooth & Nail Records--those pre-Swing Praise years when you could count on any album released by the label to be of high quality. Without turning this review into a wistful nostalgia piece, I will say that those days are long gone. Fortunately for tasteful listeners everywhere, T&N still releases a lot of great records, and the new Blenderhead record is no exception.
Blenderhead is fronted by Bill Power, whose "day job" is A&R director of --you guessed it--Tooth & Nail Records. Power's singing voice is stronger than most bands in the math rock/indie rock genre, and at times serves as a stark contrast to the jagged guitars backing him. He's not above screaming, however, a point to which "Theology and Algebra" and "You Know Who You Are" testify.
Power's lyrics remind me of umpteen punk bands from my high school--they're ultra-simplistic and based on real-life situations. The album-opening "I Gave Her My Heart, She Gave Me a Pen" finds Power wailing "I didn't steal your car, but I wish I had" and on "Emerald City Indie Queen" he is positively caustic, giving scenesters a much-needed kick in the pants. Elsewhere, on "Transatlantic Solo Flight," his words are drenched in self-pity toward a bitter friend.
I get the feeling, though, that the lyrics aren't what's important here. Rather, as on most math-rock albums, the attention is given to the discordant guitars and the insane drums, very rarely operating in standard rock and roll 4/4 time. In that respect, guitarists Ed Carrington and Tyler Vanderploeg and drummer Matt Johnson are as good as any in the business.
Blenderhead fans know who they are, and will certainly rush to pick up this new album, but the band also has an opportunity to pick up new fans. Will they succeed? I'm not sure. Figureheads on the Forefront of Pop Culture is about as far from radio-friendly as a person can get, and with much of the rest of Tooth & Nail Records moving in that direction, Blenderhead may be the black sheep in the family.
Michial Farmer 12/6/2000