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The Bled

Sticking The Bled with the "hardcore" tag seems unfair. Pass the Flask, the young Tucson quintet's 10-song, 38-minute full-length debut, is a much more ambitious undertaking than most of the so-called "screamo" records that have flooded the punk market over the past year.

"A lot of the times in hardcore, the aggressiveness and the anger of the music gets pushed off onto these big testosterone-fueled meatheads," says Jeremy Talley, principal lyricist and lead guitarist for The Bled. "We're trying to play music that goes out to all types of people."

Well, perhaps it won't play to the Celine Dion audience, but Pass the Flask is closer to the recent work of prog-metal bands like Mars Volta than it is to traditional punk. Its intense-as-brain-surgery songs play aural gymnastics, changing tempos, time signatures, riffs and moods in mid-song; a few do so multiple times. The songs also suggest a narrative that, depending on your perspective, could either detail the grief of losing a girlfriend in a horrifying inferno or be the world's sharpest overreaction to getting dumped.

"Porcelain Hearts and Hammers For Teeth," for instance, starts as a ballad, with a mysterious six-note guitar sequence wrapped by a sensuous bass riff. "I'd burn alive to keep you warm when you're alone," sings James Muñoz. It's one of the only times on the album he doesn't howl at the top of his lungs. The lyric then details what may or may not be an assisted suicide -- "You pour the liquor on the staircase/Pass the flask and close your eyes." By mid-song, the band is back to full throttle, building the crashing chorus around the line "Yesterday will be the end of you and I." So now, is it a breakup or a death? Are the words metaphorical or literal? It's a question that makes the grungy coda "I'll burn alive for you" that much more chilling.

It's the kind of lyrical ambiguity Talley excels at, and combined with the whiplash music, his style gives The Bled a fighting chance to find a mass audience


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