Heartbreaking Bravery

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Mozes and the Firstborn – Bloodsucker (Music Video)

Mozes and the Firstborn quietly released one of the best debut records of last year on Burger as a cassette and few people noticed. Now, though, on the brink of releasing that same record in all major audio formats (and in the midst of a tour with together PANGEA), lots of people’s heads are turning. All it takes is one listen to just about any song off of Mozes and the Firstborn to know that this quartet of kids from the Netherlands has tapped into something special. Serious songwriting chops paired with enviable pop sensibilities and enough dirtied up grit to make any Ty Segall acolyte blush. All of this is why this site’s already spent a fair amount of words on the band. They’re a band worth celebrating and undoubtedly deserve the praise and affection that will be coming their way.

Today, the band outdid themselves. Already prone to sneaking in nods to film (their name is a reference to the animated religious film The Prince of Egypt), they elevated their filmic tendencies by releasing a music video for “Bloodsucker” that’s a loving ode to The Big Shave, the 1967 short film that launched Martin Scorsese’s career. Only this time, instead of the principle subject shaving the bottom half of his face off, the band and director, Jeroen Dankers, give the stark story a blackly comic twist that prompts as much laughter as it does disgust. It’s an audacious move and may even become an iconic clip in certain circles. While the video’s dedication to a faithful aesthetic recreation of its source material is impressive, it’s the song that pushes this over the edge. “Bloodsucker” is the kind of vintage powerpop that’s incredibly difficult to get successful without sounding strained but is a style Mozes and the Firstborn manage to pull off effortlessly. With “Bloodsucker” backing the increasingly garish imagery that accompanies it, they create an incredibly memorable piece of art that deserves to be seen. Watch “Bloodsucker” below, pre-order Mozes and the Firstborn from Burger, and don’t take any brushes with fate for granted.

Watch This: Vol. 13

Again, sincerest apologies on the delay involving this 13th installment of Watch This. What would regularly run on Sunday was pushed back this week due to an obscene overabundance of material that needed some serious navigation. When the realization of the source of last week’s excess of material could be traced back to two events, things became a little more manageable. Now, at least for this week, there will be three standalone videos and the final two spots will be occupied by video playlists; one being the Marked Men weekend, the other being the Don Giovanni showcase. Brooklyn, you had a surreal wealth of incredible music this week, worthy of anyone’s envy. For all of those videos, as well as a few more, watch everything posted below.

1. Dog Day – Sandwich (exclaim!)

Kicking off the series this week is Dog Day, a quartet whose sound is steeped in shoegaze aesthetics without ever crossing the line into that genre. Instead, they offer up a very singular take on brooding post-punk that carries a lot of noise and no wave heft. As for the band’s performance, it’s detached to the point of being eerie, effectively elevating the sense of unease. A very strong, very curious, introduction to a band that has a decent shot of gaining a very faithful following.

2. Sandrider – Gorgon (KEXP)

HOLY FUCK.

3. Porches.  ft. Frankie Cosmos – Fog Dog (Live at Woodbury)

Porches. continue to impress every time the project surfaces. This fan-shot performance clip of “Fog Dog” may actually be the most arresting material to come from Porches. to date. It helps that Frankie Cosmos vocals lend the whole thing an almost unbearable lightness. A genuinely gorgeous piece of entertainment- and the ending? One of the most endearing things to have shown up in any kind of film this year.

4. The Marked Men Weekend (Live at St. Vitus)

So, the other weekend an enormous wealth of material consumed Brooklyn and lit the NYC punk community on fire three times over. A large, large, part of this was the three sets that reclusive basement punk icons The Marked Men graced the city with, bringing along an assortment of their friends to share the moment. All three of The Marked Men’s sets were captured in full by the always-reliable unARTigNYC, who also filmed single clips of the support acts; Tenement, Radiator Hospital, Worriers, Kim Phuc, Iron Chic, Future Punx, and Shellshag. Those clips appear in that order and are all worth watching (especially Tenement, who will get an emphasis on here whenever there’s an appropriate excuse, and Radiator Hospital, whose Something Wild was one of 2013’s very best).

5. The Don Giovanni Showcase

While The Marked Men weekend was happening over at St. Vitus, the Don Giovanni showcase was going strong just a stones throw away. There were a few bands that made appearances at both (Tenement, Worriers, and Shellshag) and made sure the wealth was lovingly spread across the city. Now, Don Giovanni’s a record label that’s earned a lot of mentions here by virtue of their roster, one of the strongest in DIY music. While not being able to attend was painful, it’s easy to tell that it was an incredible time from the videos that were presented by Don Giovanni themselves. Curiously, sets/songs from the explosive combination of Screaming Females and Tenement  were left out (though a performance of “Doom 84” in Cleveland has been tacked onto the playlist- along with the previously-mentioned Shellshag medley– because as long as this video playlist cheating is taking place, why not cheat a little more?) along with a few others but there’s still a lot to love here.

Contained in the playlist are the following: Nude Beach (who absolutely lit Quarters Rock N Roll Palace up in Milwaukee last July with Midnight Reruns and Tenement), Black Wine, Groucho Marxists, Priests (especially Priests, who, as one of the most original and exciting bands in music, are going to be given a lot more words here in the very near future), Vacation (a few members of which have found growing success in their other incredible band, Tweens), Worriers, Nuclear Santa Claust, California X, and, as mentioned, both Screaming Females and Shellshag. Watch it all below and buy a goddamn guitar already.

Perfect Pussy – I (Music Video)

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There are very few names that have been as instrumental to Heartbreaking Bravery’s (admittedly limited) early success and continuing expansion as Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves. Endlessly supportive and impossibly kind, she’s lent an unwavering support that’s both humbling and welcome. For this reason and this reason alone, I’m going to abandon at least one rule of the hidden manifest I’ve held Heartbreaking Bravery to up until this 110th post; the use of a first-person narrative. I’m breaking this rule specifically for this post because these words will be about Perfect Pussy’s new music video as much as they’ll be about sincerity. Sincerity, compassion, and empathy were at the heart of our last discussion and were three of the things that attracted me to the band begin with. There’s an unflinching honesty that, as evidenced by the almost immediate backlash following their success, alienated about 1 person for every 10 that it’s inspired.

In terms of sentiment, the lyrical content on I have lost all desire for feeling elevates itself past the bleeding-heart realm into a full-on self-performed open heart surgery that cuts off halfway through, laying everything bare for onlookers. It’s not kitschy, it’s fucking brave. Detractors like to speculate that it’s all just an act, grossly unaware of how little of a veil there is that separates the band from its audience. There’s a heart on display that’s beating furiously and unapologetically, allowing anyone paying attention to interpret its motions as they will. Operating without a filter and embracing as much positive energy as humanly possible, the band’s already managed to establish a reputation for themselves on the strength of a four song demo and fierce touring.

All of those early trademarks- the empathy, compassion, sincerity, (positive) energy, fearlessness, and upfront honesty come together in Lukas Hodge’s clip for I have lost all desire for feeling‘s explosive opening track, “I”. Hodge opens the video with an endearing black-and-white shot of the band, all smiles, descending a staircase and led by an umbrella-toting Graves. Before the jump cut out of the stairwell hits an abbreviated quick cut sequence, Graves shoots the audience the kind of smile that seems to say “thank you” and “I love you” all at once, to anyone that cares. It’s a brief second that feels like it’s worth a lifetime, aptly illustrating a moment of  something  approaching self-actualization. It’s unlikely there will be anything as intimate captured this year.

Following the contained beauty of the band’s introduction, the video ably jumps between three scenarios; the live performance footage, the band shooting firecrackers off in a beautiful wide-open field, and walking around various city locations. All of “I” is lensed with a subtly soft, warm hue that maximizes the clip’s easy naturalistic feel. Though, there aren’t moments lacking in artistic merit in the face of that naturalism. While it’s difficult to tell whether or not it actually was raining, the band (and certainly the director) were likely aware of how significant something as simple as the umbrellas has been throughout musically-inclined film projects. From Mary Poppins to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to, more recently, How I Met Your Mother, umbrellas have acted as beloved staples (and important plot devices) in culturally resonant art. While a two minute music video is obviously going to have to deal with some limitations, “I” already feels like one of the more definitive presentations of a very specific subculture within the confines of punk.

Before the video’s explosive confetti-strewn climax, Hodge manages to articulately convey the band’s frantic passion through exposition. By splicing together the outside footage with the performance, it’s easy to grasp the band’s personality which makes the final payoff that much more exhilarating. You want the people that greet you with a warm embrace to succeed, especially when their end goal doesn’t carry any inherently negative or mean-spirited consequence. That’s a space reserved for the kind of people who embrace the lighthearted fun that’s on display throughout “I”. By the time “I” hits its relentless stride and the band’s surrounded by friends, everyone under a shower of confetti and clothed in silly string, the moment feels deserved. Driving this point home, Hodge allows his camera to linger on a small group of hands that are raised up, as if in elated prayer, and a once small-but-significant moment acts as a stand-in for a much larger one; those few enlightened hands have now turned into thousands, each of which (mine included) more than happy to attempt to push the band to even greater successes and heights.

While Graves may still be on the operating table, picking herself apart and attempting to figure out how to live the most worthwhile life possible, there are people in her corner. There are people that know Perfect Pussy are a band that’s worth believing in, not just because they’re making great music but because they’re making sincere music, the kind that directly opposes the apathy that’s descended like a darkness and all but consumed the forefront of the DIY/basement punk scene. There’s an intrinsic value to Perfect Pussy’s commitment to honesty. At a time when things as basic as desire and enthusiasm are positioned as things that can damage credibility, I’ll be on the side of the band that comes into that fold and fucking destroys the misguided preconceptions about them. Perfect Pussy are a band that kids can look to and be assured that it’s okay to be excited about art and the importance of that should not be lost.

“I” will likely always be Perfect Pussy’s best calling card, distilling the band’s indomitable passion into a blistering 120 seconds (complete with an arresting mantra that perfectly captures the band’s paradoxical marriage of aspects gentle and forceful). Somewhere, in those two glorious minutes, an entire subculture’s esoteric pretense was stripped away. Somehow, Lukas Hodge managed to create a video that managed to push the band’s ideals further while presenting an accurate portrayal of their collective identity. Someday some fifteen year old kid is going to see that video and learn a myriad of things; that it’s okay to be who you are, that art/punk/noise/hardcore/whatever-the-fuck is one of the most gratifying experiences you can possibly have, that gender should never matter in music, that youth can be retained, and that sincerity is something that should never be overvalued.

Even if Graves & co. are pinching themselves now, in the midst of a rapid ascension to the kind of levels where all of their moves will be met with scrutiny, they’re not the sort to pay attention to any of the critical responses. That’s the final key to their success; by blocking out all of the outside opinion- apart from the reactions they get from shows, people buying merch through their bandcamp, or personal messages- they’re free to cater to the things they believe in. Luckily for us, those beliefs are worth celebrating. Nearly everything that I’ve written above (in addition to the twenty or so times I watched “I” today) has led me to a realization. Perfect Pussy have officially become a personal item for me. This isn’t a band I want to push- it’s one I need to. They’re doing important things, whether they know it or not, with a high enough profile that those things may have an actual impact and cause some positive reform in increasingly stale scenes. While Heartbreaking Bravery certainly won’t be the most visible source lending their aesthetics and creative decisions vocal support, it’s still worth discussing.

For a reminder of all of this, watch “I” below and pre-order a deluxe copy of Say Yes to Love over at Captured Tracks.