Review of Blame Mary : Short, Fast, and Dirty

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Blame Mary’s self-titled debut ep is short, fast and dirty. It was recorded live off the floor at The Dirty Church here in Montreal and the effect on the end result, while not necessarily positive, is certainly unmistakable. I’m used to seeing this local punk trio in a live setting, so in some ways their recording method helped mimic the environment in which I feel in love with the band.

Lead singer and guitar player Marie Tilbe’s voice walks that wonderfully fine punk rock line of raw aggression and catchy melodies. Between the raspy anger and syllables that are elongated to fit the melody and rhythms, the lyrics in each of these songs aren’t easy to decipher but the emotions behind them always are. While willing to admit that it might be the result of an unfortunate gender bias, I can’t help but compare her voice to that of a young Brody Dalle on The Distillers’ early albums. This is due in part also to the music attached to the voice.
Like pretty much any album recorded off the floor, the sound quality on these songs isn’t great. It’s kinda fuzzy and as a result the songs don’t hit nearly as hard as they do in an actual live setting. To some bands the spirit is more important than the sound and as I can artist I can empathize with that. What I find surprising though, is when the tracks are listened to closely the musicians themselves exhibit a technical skill that the quality of the recordings almost masks. Blame Mary’s rhythm section, composed of bassist and vocalist Josiah Toufexis and drummer Jon Cleveland, is wildly impressive.

Most bass players in punk bands stick to root notes for speed and efficiency, this is not the case with Josiah. His bass lines are all over the place, aggressive and highly involved. There is nothing over the top about Jon’s drumming but his subtle stability and technical skill gives the band room to try exciting rhythm changes that are rare in the seemingly straightforward punk style they’ve adopted. The best example of this is in the opening track “Glory”. Around the 1:20 mark the songs slows down to a groovy metal tempo before blasting back to a breakneck speed in the song’s final, noisy seconds. “Turning Blue” opens with a crazed bass riff and an almost contradictory subdued drum roll.

The quality of the recordings reduces most of the guitar parts to a sort of ambient fuzziness, with one exception. In “Free Online” there’s one of the band’s signature rhythm changes that also sees an interesting guitar tone shift. While Jon and Joe are crushing the listener with a heavy breakdown, Marie makes her guitar screech with feedback in a way that emphasizes the weight of the breakdown while somehow using it as an abrasive melodic device.
In a conversation I had with Jon about the record, he explained that this ep also serves a demo of sorts. The goal was to release something that people could get excited about and reward them with higher quality recordings of these songs in the future. It definitely worked on this humble fan and I can’t wait to hear these songs with the clarity and skill the band couldn’t even avoid hinting at on this release.

The ep can be heard here  and downloaded for whatever price you see fit.