The sophomore effort for the Benzos second album Branches, is full of depression and gloom, and yet the band manages never to cross that boundary into emo territory like so many other bands before them. I guess coming from New York lets them experience that expansive tough view of the world without completely losing one’s emotional fortitude.
The opening track “Sell This Thing” is a prime example of how easily the band could have gone the emo route, but instead manages to create a combination of intense desperation with Christian Celaya’s vocals (“You can see that I’m on time, on display, it’s too late / In my life I thought I knew what I want”) and cautious optimism with Brian Joyce’s guitar melodies.
Benzos’ strength is an emphasis on the music, never allowing any one element to dominate or stand out, or to disrupt the harmonies. In the title track, Celaya sings with a subdued lushness to compliment the simple directing guitar solos. Even Steve Bryant’s drum work, which is the instrument often associated as being the main culprit, is very relaxed. The minimalist “Hard To Feel” has everything bare as they can be, before being brought to a crescendo of swift passion.
It’s often hard to sense the emotion in the music because the band switches often between being downcast and being passive. Either way, there is a certain consistency of a laid-back carefree attitude in each song. “On Your Own” mixes a dose of blues with a touch of raw funk. The combination strips it of anything bright and existent that you listen as if a haunting haze is engulfing the light.
As Branches comes to its end, you can feel a greater sense of recklessness and abandonment. “Hurt Everybody” sounds like moments of your life are being fast-forwarded with a remote, minutes at a time. “Translucent” feels like any sense of control is being slowly taken away from you (“From me, take all I see, lately pass me, make believe you made me”). The concluding track “Pere” is very appropriate as it restores the hopefulness of an eventual sunny day after a week of overcast and stormy nights.
Benzos' label, Stinky Records, has made three MP3s available for your listening pleasure.