Free To Eat
When we interviewed Brandon Blaine for this year’s 100 Bands You Need To Know special, the Plague Vendor frontman admitted that when he started getting into music and performing, his focus was on hip-hop. It took some friends to convince him that he should be give singing a real shot.
Whoever those nameless Whittier, California, chums are, we owe them a huge debt. Blaine possesses a voice that cuts right to the core of every one of the scratchy agitated jams on Plague Vendor’s debut full-length, Free To Eat. It has the same tonal bite of Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of the Hives but matched up with the unhinged flow of Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington, and he delivers each line with the manic enthusiasm of a hopped-up tent preacher. He is as natural a rock singer as there is.
Let’s take a small step back and acknowledge that Blaine’s success comes thanks to the music that surrounds his singing. His three partners in crime stir up a cyclone of post-punk agony. It’s entirely spare, recorded just as you’re likely to hear it live: Jay Rogers’ razorwire guitar lines fighting for room with an uncompromising rhythm section of Michael Perez on bass and Luke Perine on drums.
Connections can be made to the garage punk of Gas Huffer and the Damned’s cigarette-burnt pop. But they don’t feel beholden to those influences in the way that Savages does with their following of the post-punk blueprint. This is much looser in both hips and lips.
Free To Eat threatens near-perfection because it doesn’t give you any time to think twice about it. The album’s 10 songs are over and done in under 20 minutes. The impression they leave at the end of it all is huge. Plague Vendor have the potential to shake the punk scene up in a very large way. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy and beautiful ride.