Review Summary: An unquestionably acquired taste.
Holly Brewer and Matt (M@) McNiss are like high school lab partners curiously trekking down the path of their own mixtures. The married couple shares a bond for impaling their flags on uncharted territory by combining unlikely portions to create an interesting final result. What’s music but an infinite outcome chemistry set, anyway?
So in 2007, after two successful and amusing EP’s, the duo picked some grapes off of the punk grapevine located in a cabaret climate, fermented them and produced the exotic taste of HUMANWINE for a full-length sized glass.
If you’re like me, upon first hearing that the band commits to a punk cabaret sound, you’d think: “Ehhh…well I don’t know. That might be too zany for me to enjoy without feeling strange”. Fighting Naked
certainly does have its share of normality as well as eccentricity, leaving you to decide which captures you better. Let the first song come crashing in. A sinister voice howls “A violent disorder stakes claims of it’s righteousness over the border…
” leading you to believe this has more the sound of a warning than a greeting. The maliciousness is a rule rather than the exception for the more rock-oriented songs.
Now what’s more interesting than the tiger-striped tattoos running up Holly’s chest, neck and chin, is her cautionary and surprisingly intimidating voice. “You’re... not.. me!
” she discourages over the hostility of M@’s guitar clashing with the lively dynamics of the drums. I find out that it’s actually Brian Viglione, drummer of the Dresden Dolls, behind the kit. Well, of course it is. Recruiting vigorous Viglione (who is Holly’s childhood friend) for their first LP proves to be artful as Viglione is no stranger to the goth-cabaret style. The crispy attitude of the track should now leave the listener thinking: “Ok…now I see how this can work”.
Without a voice like Holly's, these songs wouldn't work for the most part. She has that tainted, royal posture that easily brings out the resentment or soreness in her writing. "Epoch" is a spot on example showcasing her voice in the song of despair. "Son of a bitch...
" she sighs melodically, "Why must you be this way?
" Musically, the song hints at the opener (as does the title track) with the exception of the acoustic breaks - but this one is more about Holly anyway. At the close of the track, a vocal segment comes that really borrows the dramatic elements of Amy Lee (Evanescence) and the sensativity of Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries). "Pique" is a very similar track using the same format but with a quieter approach and descent.
Now, the ridiculous parts.
There's no hiding the fact that "Dim Allentown Cove (Part I)" sounds like it came right out of a Tim Burton movie. The pirate-y tune almost takes the face of a dusky pub song with different characters chiming in and creating scenic background noises. Somewhere in here, when you're in the strangest of moods, you can find things to hold onto. That is, until the song ends halfway through the recording and next-to-nothingness lingers around for two and a half minutes.
A slightly more restrained "Rivolta Silenziosa", which was featured on an earlier EP, brings back the pirate characters (which is most likely M@'s voice) but with a more gratifying beat and tempo. The music itself is great striking to be antique and Holly agreeably sings the grotesque lyrics: "Made out of skin/It's kin eating kin/cogs living in the burning city/When will this day ever end?
" The pirate people are a great touch IF you enjoy that sort of thing. If you're not as accepting, however, it can and will grow annoying.
You at least get a break between these two when the band returns to their vinegary, mischievous prowls on "Worthless Ode". It bites with shouts of "Hey!
" at the end of a chambered riff. Keeping it relatively normal, the band dozes off into a sedated outro.
When the album closes softly in "When In Rome", you must appreciate the ride you've been on no matter how awkward you felt at times. Fighting Naked
sums up Holly and M@ in more ways than expected. Where there is talent in unusual songwriting, there are unusual moments that catch your ear. Their strength lies in their variety being mixed with wonderful, passionate singing. It takes a little getting used to, but when you acquire the taste of HUMANWINE, you may be in for a more bizarre, and more talented journey than any other gothic band has to offer.