Blueprint Car Crash – Rhetoric of a Marionette EP

Blueprint Car Crash
Rhetoric of a Marionette EP

I’ve been lucky enough to have a good track record with The Militia Group up to this point (Tora!Tora!Torrance!, Brandtson, Big Collapse, Rufio). Unfortunately, though, it seems that streak’s going a bit off the beaten path with Blueprint Car Crash’s Rhetoric of a Marionette, which comes off as a whole as the musical equivalent of a gangly, clumsy 14-year-old.

The initial impression given on Rhetoric seems to be that Blueprint Car Crash is going for a strange offshoot of the type of sound The Mars Volta puts out. A majority of the sounds on this disc are chaotic and loud, cathartic and emotionally charged, though melodic patterns of some sort always seem to find themselves intertwined into the music. The guitars are repeatedly layered, as echo-laden guitar noodles often roll over top of crunching guitar rhythms, though these spacey sounds tend to drop out without notice in favor of harshly melodic passages. The actual rhythm tracks tend to be a bit on the smart side, as it seems that extra rests or beats are thrown in every so often to make the songs seem more urgent. While all of this sounds great in theory, something about the execution is just the slightest bit off – sort of like the guy on the dance floor that knows all the latest and greatest moves, only he’s tearing them off 1/2 a beat off the rhythm of the music; sure, his moves are still awesome, but that 1/2 beat is just enough to distort the reality of what he’s trying to accomplish.

Lyrically, the album is very poetic, as the actual song lyrics read far more like staggered poetry than like conventionally schemed lyrics. Because of this, the vocal delivery tends to be very jagged, varying between long-winded meanderings and sharply intoned punctuations. While five of the songs do deal with the expected lyrical broodings (suspected existentialism on “Terminat Hora Diem” and fractured emotions on four others), the band does get surprisingly smart amidst the aggressively dissonant guitars of “12.8.80,” which gives a forceful and confrontational take on the death of John Lennon. There’s not a whole lot of legitimate ‘singing’ here, though as far as ‘emoting’ goes, I’ve certainly heard worse vocalists.

The aforementioned “Terminat Hora Diem” is the album’s most uniquely imperfect listen, courtesy of a combination of existential lyrics, spacey rhythm effects, and flute and saxophone solos that leave the song sounding like some bizarro Roxy Music outtake. Strangely enough, though, the only track on Rhetoric that actually lives up to the band’s possible potential is the EP’s most straightforward track, “Bel-imperia.” The track does crossfade in on a chugging rhythm riff with a very spacey-sounding lead guitar line over it, but about a minute in, the song drops the echoes and just plain rocks, with yelled lyrics accompanied by surprisingly effecting screaming (supplied by The Beautiful Mistake’s Jon Berndtson). In a disturbingly abrupt bridge, the band drops out, leaving only a simple bass drum beat to support Mo Shahisaman’s unsettling couplet, “You’d let me cum in your mouth / But not touch your heart baby,” which sends the band back into a fury of guitars and screaming.

The band’s name is appropriate for this release, as I keep thinking of driving by a car crash that I don’t think I want to look at, even though I find myself unable to stop staring at it … I’ve probably spun Rhetoric of a Marionette more than 50 times since it arrived at my doorstep, and the best thing I can think of to say about it is that it’s a flawed but intangibly entertaining release. “Bel-imperia” is the only legitimately strong track on the disc, but yet, something keeps dragging me back to listen to it ‘just one more time’ every other day. It seems that maybe Blueprint Car Crash tried to do one too many things with this disc, and some of the band’s ideas got lost in translation from the songwriting process to the actual performance. Still, though, the band carries out these six songs with obvious conviction, regardless of the disc’s shortcomings.

I can’t necessarily recommend this disc, but at the same time, Rhetoric of a Marionette can’t really be totally written off either; suffice it to say that adventurous listeners into The Mars Volta/At the Drive-In scene might find something of interest here, though, and I’ll leave it at that.