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The Singles

Free Blood

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Album Review

Though most of Free Blood's singles came out within the span of a year, they were almost three years in the making. That may be why The Singles often feels more like an album than a compilation, even though its first half consists of the band's original singles and the second half is devoted to remixes. Throughout these tracks, John Pugh and Madeline Davy define and redefine their sound, which is akin to the boundary-pushing dance-punk Pugh played as !!!'s percussionist, but served up with more mischievous wit and style — it makes perfect sense that Davy is also a fashion designer for the Octopi label. It also makes perfect sense that The Singles was released by Rong Music in conjunction with DFA Records: Free Blood's brainy hedonism, sense of humor, and compelling rhythms are a natural fit with that label. The epic "Never Hear Surf Music Again" begins The Singles, building from towering toms and finger snaps into druggy sleaze ("Take it if it makes you numb/Take it if it makes you come") with a slinky bassline, vocals that split and circle around themselves, and an Arthur Russell-esque cello sawing in the background. That would be enough for most bands, but Free Blood push things further, piling on electric and acoustic guitars and self-destructing electronics, keeping the song rolling and changing for its entire six minutes. Though most of Free Blood's other tracks go straight for the jugular, and dancefloor, that sense of adventure pulses through the rest of The Singles: "The Royal Family" clinks out an opening rhythm on wineglasses, and "Parangatang" adds tumbling pianos to its tribal beats as it closes. "Quick and Painful" and "Grumpy," meanwhile, focus on Pugh and Davy's raw energy and cheeky vocals. The Singles' remixes elongate Free Blood's choppy hyperactivity into sleek but only slightly more conventional tracks. Barfly (aka Rong Music head Ben Cook) peels "Never Hear Surf Music Again"'s complexity down to its funkiest and most ecstatic moments, transforming it into a nine-minute workout with ghostly guitars, mantra-like vocals, and synths that buzz like synapses. Greg Wilson's driving disco-tinged reworking of "Grumpy" and Tim Love Lee's clattering, abstracted remix of "Parangatang" explore the funky yet alien side that lurks just under Free Blood's punky surface. The Singles is a taut, exciting introduction to a group with a surprising amount of layers in its music.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Free Blood began as an attempt by former !!! percussionist John Pugh and fashion designer Madeline Davy to blend the impeccable style of Manhattan dance clubs with the raw energy of Brooklyn parties. The duo formed Free Blood in 2003, mixing noisy, percussion-heavy dance-punk akin to !!! with pop melodies and structures while keeping the instrumentation simple, focusing on bass guitar, drum machine, and vocals. Free Blood played live for three years, playing gigs with groups as wide-ranging as Suicide,...
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The Singles, Free Blood
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