When Blood On The Wall released their 2005 album Awesomer, bloggers and music journalists were handed a perfect tagline. “Blood on the Wall are awesomer than (insert anyone less awesome here)” as most of them read. Redundant as it became, it was fun to say, not just because it was a pun within easy reach, but also because it was true. When a good chunk of today’s indie rock bands are striving for earnest anthems like The Arcade Fire or borrowing some of Sufjan Stevens’ best glockenspiel riffs, Blood On the Wall was getting their hands dirty and playing indie rock, emphasis on the rock.
Two years later, on album number three, Liferz, a title that one would hope means the New York trio is in the game for the long haul, that scuzzy, noisy indie rock storm hasn’t dissipated in the slightest. There’s a reason that Blood On The Wall is revered as one of New York City’s best live acts—they totally rip. Liferz captures the band doing what they do best, namely slashing out hyperactive three-chord indie-punk rave-ups drenched in sweat and nostalgia. Yet while so many are eager to draw comparisons to Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr. when it comes to BOTW, the band eschews both bands’ penchant for wild, extended squalls of feedback and improvisation and, instead, cut to the chase in delivering riffs and hooks before burning the place down.
In the manic, pogoing explosion of “Hibernation,” Blood On The Wall approximates The Pixies with far less restraint. In pretty much every song, for that matter, Blood On The Wall show much less restraint than peers or forebears, a quality that makes them both endearing and exciting. Guitarist/vocalist Brad Shanks delivers his vocals with a hoarse urgency, while sister Courtney has a sultrier rasp in tracks like “The Ditch” and the restrained “Lightning Song,” sounding something like Karen O’s smoky, subtler twin. The latter provides some solid evidence that BOTW’s attempts at subtlety can be more successful than their typical M.O. of reckless abandon, though “Junkeee…Juleee…” combines both handily. “Rize” merely splits the difference, opting for jangle-pop, and a quite nice jangle-pop at that.
While bouncing from fuzzed-out punk blast to melodic pop tune continuously throughout Liferz, Blood On The Wall pulls the plug before causing too much damage. Packing eleven songs into a less-than-30-minute package, the group uses brevity to their advantage by making every second of squealing, head-kicking rock `n’ roll count. Just remember that any bruises sustained while listening are all in good fun.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.