At this point, the Blood Brothers’ magic touch with the scream-driven anthem is almost been taken for granted. Certainly no one could call the band underrated, per se — their fanbase comprises metal, punk, hardcore, and indie-pop fans alike, a feat unto itself — but there always seemed to be an unacknowledged “more” lurking beneath the rapid-fire, math-y bombast.
And, in fact, there is more: Neon Blonde, a duo of Johnny Whitney (the higher-pitched of the two BB screamers) and BB’s drummer Mark Gajadhar, maintains the gut-punch intensity of their band’s best, but with a little less volume, allowing actual melodies, off-kilter interplay, and intricate, danceable rhythms to poke through. On Chandeliers in the Savannah, Whitney and Gajadhar lead a tour of their creative underbelly as terrifying as it is infectious.
Neon Blonde have all of their side-project bases covered, diverging from Blood Brothers in all the right places. Where the Brothers piled metallic guitar upon metallic guitar, Neon Blonde pulls out lounge-y piano balladry (as on the title track, which resembles the Mars Volta covering Elton John — better than it sounds, we promise) or synthed-up dance party jams (the woozy, deliriously catchy “Love Hounds”). Where the Brothers drew sharp, clean lines, Neon Blonde scribbles outside them with shambolic glee: Check out “Dead Mellotron,” which shifts from an asymetrical dog fight of Brainiac-aping, razor-sharp guitar stabs to a arrestingly pretty synth chorus.
Whitney’s voice especially benefits from the recasting. One of the more off-putting sounds in rock, his high, androgynous rasp seems to emanate from the West (as in, “Wicked Witch of”). On Chandeliers, though, actual melodies appear, to bizarre effect. “Cherries in Slow Motion” sees Whitney ranting over a pounding baby-grand, throwing vocal dive-bombs like a Low-era Bowie, while Gajadhar takes an oom-pah-oom-pah circus beat and somehow makes it into punk. Consider that “more” recognized.