Monday night, I chose to start working on this review rather than watching the Presidential debate. Why? For the same reason Plague Vendor appeals to me – the world is full of depressing shit with a few glimmers of happiness scattered here and there. When there are so many unavoidable things that suck all around us every day, why choose to intentionally subject yourself to something you know will make you mad or sad when instead you can enjoy something that fills you with joy and energy?
That, my friends, is hedonihilism – the personal philosophy I’ve been honing since I was old enough to notice how much everything sucks and smart enough to know that I should cherish that which makes me happy, and that which simply feels good, before it, too, gets engulfed by the suck. Basically, we’re all fucking doomed, so kick out the jams, motherfuckers!
I don’t reference MC5 merely because “kick out the jams, motherfuckers” is a handy catchphrase, useful for many situations one may encounter in daily life. Plague Vendor are indirect descendants of MC5’s brand of dirty, high-energy garage rock. They might not have the same name for it, but Plague Vendor understand hedonihilism.
Bloodsweat’s first track “Anchor to Ankles” sets the tone for the whole album with manic, driving drums, monotonous guitars and frontman Brandon Blaine’s crooned verses and screamed choruses. When he’s not screaming, Blaine’s voice is reminiscent of Bauhaus-era Peter Murphy, while the tunes bring to mind a more energetic early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
The album’s first single, “Jezebel” follows up sounding a whole lot like the song before it, but “Ox Blood” comes along after that to demonstrate that Plague Vendor are more than a one trick pony. It’s a tense little Pixies-esque mid-tempo number that’s over just when you’re starting to get into it. Six of the album’s 11 tracks clock in at three minutes or less, leaving you wanting more rather than overstaying their welcome.
“Credentials” is the first song with lyrics that are easy to make out, and they’re particularly amusing given I was listening to them while my Facebook feed exploded with commentary on the Presidential debate. I can’t decide if the lyrics “Fuck your credentials, we’re Presidential. The White House is cat and mouse, it is official,” work as a biting commentary of the attitude of Trump campaign or a loving tribute? Or are they just some poorly-formed, juvenile faux social commentary that I’ve officially given more thought and analysis than anyone in the band ever did? That sounds more like it.
“Chopper,” too, has vaguely political lyrics but they’re interspersed with lines about craving sex and drugs, which ends coming across as Buckcherry trying to impress a girl from the campus Socialists club. I guess what I’m saying here is that I don’t think Plague Vendor are all that bright, but they don’t need to be. They rock reliably and that’s enough.
This isn’t the kind of music you’d expect from a band whose name is just begging to be scrawled in some illegible death metal font, a name that makes me want to go full-on dad-joke and start asking people, “Are you in the market for plague? Because I’ve got a great plague guy.” Death metal has the nihilism part down pat, but skips the hedonism. Plague Vendor is a band to break shit to, sure, but you’ll do it while dancing and with a smile on your face.