Monday, December 5, 2011
The Bloody Hollies - Yours Until the Bitter End
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."
I sat uncomfortably in the confessional. Beyond the wood and iron door, night fell about the cathedral. No parishioners walked the pews. A lone janitor mopped the floors in silent circles. Candles burned in a solemn stare of remorse as the crucified form of Jesus stared down at me. A mix of mercy and condemnation in his eyes.
I'm not Catholic, but my transgression was so great I had no other choice. To save my music-loving soul, I needed confession.
"Yes, my son," the priest's disembodied voice returned. "Tell me your sin."
I was uncomfortable not being able to look into the eyes of my redeemer. Unable to judge the response in his pupils as I opened up my soul and let my sins pour out. I wanted to gauge the look of shock and horror in his gaze as I spoke. As if it would give me a hint as to the penance I faced. But no. Just a gated wall separated us. I could see his darkened, silhouetted form, like an angry apparition. My judge. My jury.
"I have committed the cardinal sin of a music writer," I began, my voice catching in my throat. "I have prejudged a band. Condemned them before I even listened to them."
I heard the priest swallow hard. "Go on."
"The band is The Bloody Hollies and for reasons I can't quite understand, I wanted to hate them. I'd heard so much about them, I wanted to dismiss them. I wanted to stand tall on my perch of righteous musical prejudice and reign down my disgust upon them. I wanted it so much, I almost could taste my indignation. I nearly deleted the album before I'd even heard it."
"I see. But instead, you played it?"
"Yes, I did. God, yes I did! And suddenly all my preconceived notions were flung out the door. The world made new sense to me. Here I thought The Bloody Hollies was another bunch of preening pretenders, another in the long line of bandwagon-jumpers following the trail set by the White Stripes. Poseurs with a cool name, mining the same bluesy-punk vein. Fad-flipping pop-punk wannabes with no real balls or chops."
"And they weren't?"
"Hell, no!" (maybe I shouldn't have said that to the priest). "I'm here today to tell you that The Bloody Hollies are the real deal. Killer rock n roll! Pure punk thrash and dirt mixed with tainted garage griminess and unadulterated rock passion. And there's more than that. These kids know how to play. Sure the songs might be simple, but they're moved along with fine chops and a drummer that pounds the skins harder than I'd get pounded in the UFC ring.
"But it doesn't stop there. Mixed in with their rough and raw garage punk are influences of pure classic rock. Riff that the Kinks would love. And they got massive pop smarts, and I don't mean Blink 182 or Green Day pop-punk. Real punk energy with killer choruses, retro-bluesy swagger, and hooks fucking galore driving their punk ditties. (perhaps I shouldn't have said fuck either.) This is one of my favorite albums of the year."
The priest said nothing. I could hear his breathing.
"I'm serious father. You gotta hear some of these killer cuts like "So Grey So Green." They rage. I mean they positively rage! And the vocals! Oh, my God, don't get me started on the vocals. This is everything that I love in punkified rock. Passion. Pure passion baby. The singer strains and reaches and lets his vocal chords groan and screech as he blasts it out. I can't get enough of it!"
I heard the priest's breathing hasten. His lips started smacking. I knew he could feel the passion of The Bloody Hollies music just from my words. I yanked the mp3 boombox out of my backpack and hit play. "Dead Letter," raged out, its organ and marching drum intro filling the cathedral. I saw the janitor drop his mop and look my way. Suddenly the guitar part kicked in, charging and terrorizing like the best of the Replacements. Then the song motored into that stuttering breakdown before the chorus. Drums pounding like revelation. Bass attacking like the parting of the Red Sea. I felt the whole confessional shudder under the might of those 3-chord riffs. The priest was swept up in the passion. I could see his silhouette bouncing in the chanber next to mine.
"Dirty Sex" blasted out next, it's simple, muted southern rock guitar intro exploding into a punkified fury of adrenaline and teenage hormones. Like the Black Crowes amped up on a case of Red Bull after a fist-fight with the Stooges.
"And then I learned that this was their 5th album. And still they bring this much passion to their music. And the surprises, like the use of a violin on one song. A slide guitar on another. I can't stop listening . . . "
But I never finished. The shuddering of the confessional heightened until the walls started to shake apart. As The Bloody Hollies ripped into the nightmare-terror-cum-prog-epic punk adventure of "Good Night Sleep Tight" the whole thing fell apart. The confessional walls shattered to the ground. The ceiling collapsed around me. And there, standing amid the rubble was the priest. Or pogoing amid the rubble would be a better way to describe it. His collar ripped off, the priest leaped onto the heap of lumber and iron, his air guitar blaring away with the rumbling riff as the song transformed into the garage-metal terror of "I Dream of Bees."
The priest reached into my backpack and ripped out my vinyl copy of Yours Until the End. (yes, the download was so good I had to run out and buy the vinyl. I suggest you do the same.) The priest stood there, staring at my album, holding it tightly in his hands, preciously, as if it was a lost artifact. When The Bloody Hollies dropped into a vague Clash-like, reggae-infused punk assault of "Leave that Woman Alone" the priest let out a wallop of a primal yell, ripped the sleeves off his white button-down shirt, whipped his hair into a quick Mohawk, and jumped from the rubble and ran off into the night.
Taking my vinyl Yours Until the Bitter End with him.
I'm still trying to track him down.