A punk rock examination of a schizophrenic serial killer in 15 parts.
I won't stop until your dead
cause of the voices inside my head
helping you and hurting me
Time will heal all wounds
but I will kill you
slowly, fading all away…
Blood Visions has all the brutality of Iggy pop's Raw Power, and continues to draw from garage pure rock bands like the Gang of Four, and the Kinks. It's a surprising revisit to a stripped down raw sound of speed power pop savagery. Be prepared for it, this album is going to grab you by the throat and not let go the entire ride from the opening pace of the clattering of sticks on the rim of a snare to launching into manic tempo punk garage rock, track after track. Before you have a chance to breathe, the next song kicks in. It owes in the quick harmonies of the Ramones, the danger of the Undertones, the early Replacements, it's classic and shocking in it's simplicity and power. But Jay has been playing in one form or another since 17, in The Retards, Final solutions, Night terrors, the list goes on and on in everything from synth punk to acoustic home recordings. The kind of dues paid live and in the studio, the background that would be needed to produce this masterpiece. On the surface it's effortlessly simple, powerchord pop punk. As fast as you can 4/4 drum, exploding distortion chorus repeating vocals. But the levels of songwriting and arrangement quickly make this stand out from anything by his peers. Every instrument and vocal exists in it's own relative space, the left and right channels are so severely separated, you have to hear this in separated stereo and not through a mono speaker on the front of a high school classroom record player. As much as I love you Califone 1400K, you met you match with Blood Visions.
The cover shows Jay in nothing but his underwear in front of a seamless light greenish backdrop covered in what looks like blood, it's dripping from his speedo. But it's not just blood, there's a huge bruise on his upper left thigh, and the he looks a little surprised but deadpan finding himself caught at the scene of the crime. It's someone who still doesn't realize what he's just done, the blood still wet on his hands… everywhere.
Side A: The split
it's what they want to give me.
There's an outside influence tormenting him, or even if it's from inside, it's not his conscience, it's something sinister and alien. There might be room yet for him to still come back from this point or get treatment, but what kind of person is left after society gets a hold of the remaining redeemable part. The character who isn't completely turned yet is internalizing their demands, this outside force. How do you expect to explain that to anyone? The vocals pan back and forth, a punched in terrifically distorted 'Blood Visions' yell overpowers the layered harmonized vocals oppposite.
O these things will change.
He can at least be sure that it's not going to last, this is a normal rejection of values of someone pissed off…lost, striking out at the things you can't control, and it's nothing to worry about.
Jay, or rather the killer, chants Greed!, Money!, Useless children! over and over, in time with a rolling snare. The world is constantly bombarding the character, it's getting to be too much… the suburban drive for money and family and the endless struggle for what? What is any of this going to be worth in the end? It's the beginning of de-personifying everyone around him. They aren't worth caring about. They are all useless, living lives not worth living. Is he being driven to this by these suffocating surroundings? How can we blame this person who isn't fitting into the societal standards, who doesn't want any part of anything around him.
It's so easy when your friends are dead
it's so much easier when you don't even care
'It's so easy' is a further examination of his surroundings. Anything he once cared about is already dead to him, his friends, his family…everything is meaningless. They are the walking dead, he's seeing into the future, the future he's about to create where the world and anything anyone cares about is all going to disappear. It's the beginning of the desperation and the first time we hear the monotone split personality voice for the first time.
All these places mean nothing to me
My Shadow shifts into heavier distortion, it quickly almost completely drowns out the underlying acoustic foundation underneath. He's becoming aware of an alter ego that will let him get away with what he really wants and it's slowly taking over whether he likes it or not. The ego is splitting. He's becoming more aware of this other side of him that is getting out of control, that's been waiting to get out. He's waking up with no memory of what his 'shadow' has done. But there's some possibility this other side could help pull off what he really deep down wants… the things he didn't think he was capable of before.
I can't see your face cause I've been looking at you
The way you do all the things you do
I can't talk to
The violence first starts with 'My Family'. A really bent string dominates the sound from the beginning, which is an unsettling off note, like the character, bending back and forth making it hard to hear the horror going on underneath.
please close your eyes
as the blows make impact
and say good bye because they are never coming back
The genius of Jay as a producer comes out in the breakdown section between verses, two gated fuzzed out guitars that could be mistaken for electronics and makes The Cars at their best sound like amateurs. The moments right before they both come in on opposite sides of your head you can hear the amp struggling to contain the distortion, and somehow it makes it even better. Knowing when to leave those unheard moments in are why I keep coming back to this entire album, as much as I've come to this awful conclusion.
But back to the killer… of course it all started at home, he hates them most of all, and they are part of this sick outside meaningless world. He hates himself and they made him, so they have to go first. The voices could be stopped then… maybe they will finally shut up if he just does what they tell him.
Of course no one knew he was capable of this. He didn't think he was capable of this .
The voices echo in 'Death is Forming' and repeats this line over and over in his head even more. The manic explosion of chorus and the words in different configurations: forming death, death form, the shadow/alter ego is completely taking over, he's lost control over this split. It's becoming him. The very idea of death itself is forming more and more in his consciousness, it's the only solution now, the only choice. Ultimately for him, for the hopelessness around him. The guitar track starts to careen out of control to that point of endless sound, but there's more to go yet.
'Oh it's such a shame' is foreshadowing the B-side which is obsessively looking back, reliving over and over.
He's a waste, everyone can see now, and it's too late, oh the poor kid, if there's any sympathy at all. Is that what everyone is going to say? Will they even care? Or the mindlessness around him the machine will just keep turning after the killing. This time the guitar builds to complete breakdown, the wave is building out of control and this time it just keeps getting bigger, more and more guitars keep adding to the mix but it never crashes, just fades away… it's the crane shot of complete and utter loneliness, the fuckup trapped in the middle of perfect manicured laws and picket fences, the beginning of the inevitable end. It's still possible to sympathize with him, it's not his fault, but he's already done it, for him there's no other choice. He's resolved to give in to the voices and what they want. He already past the point of no return.
He's sees himself, the new self:
I look into your eyes and try not to cry
let's hope it's not wasted.
Side B: Regret
'It's not a substitute for you' opens the second side in this literal break of the music and our lead character. He says 'missing you', he's missing the hope, his old self. This killing, the violence wasn't an answer… big surprise, but it never sounded so fist pumpingly good.
Then come the 'Nightmares' which is the closest approximation to a Reatard ballad… the punked up fast acoustic foundation which quickly is overpowered by the crunch of electric fuzz blasts it's way in. The vocals are still hard to pin down where exactly where they are spatially coming from, nothing is ever centered like this character, slightly off, a little louder, one side overpowering.
He's talking about finding the person that used to exist, the person that didn't want to do those things. This could be seen as hopeful, but it's just talk. You could even make the arguement that he's talking about some one who made the voices go away, a weak stab at some kind of unrequited love long gone, nothing can save him now…. this is futile.
Nightmares are all you bring to me
I'll keep searching for you
Of course this chorus repeats endlessly until the next disjointed thought in this ADD punk rock requiem…
'I see you standing there' is one of the most directly disturbing songs from the head of someone who only sees targets for whatever sick plans he has.
I see you in the park I see you doing well
playing with your children everything is swell
The vocals are even sound obsessed, monotone and frantic, tetering out of control. The idea that there is a psyche like this obsessed with hunting a victim, waiting in the shadows is terrifying. Being in complete control over another person, for some kind of gratification we can't understand. He hates society, the monotony, the fake happiness. He can de-personify everyone, they have no souls, this is about choosing a victim.
In 'We Who Wait' a prison cell is referred to and I imagine he's caught at this point, and the vocals are some kind of justification by the split to just be patient and the rewards will come. Trying to continue topersuade the conscience, it's almost over, you aren't like them.
'Fading all away' isn't a cry for help as much as it is a resignation that it's a part of him now. This is his nature there's no changing him. There was a destiny to this, that no matter what he could have done this would have been the outcome. He wasn't going to be able to stop with any amount of rehabilitation or reform. It's not even a matter of good or evil, this is just the way he's been made and he can see the whole hopeless situation now. Maybe he was completely powerless?
'Turning Blue' is a further reflection on the things he's done, and the failures of the split personality to make anything better, the sane side of him is now living in worse horror that he somehow made for himself. The dreams of the killing, that's all that's left of the experience, the memory of taking life and the reality that nothings changed.
You can even hear the institutional walls echoing in the refrain vocals, the linoleum walls of a tiny space, closing in.
As sad as it seems
you're turning blue in my dreams
I heard you never can die
if you don't act alive
lying in my garbage can
I don't want to be this man
Is this someone looking in at him from the outside? He's getting glimpses of how the world sees him now. This is the final desperation of the split personality, even the dreams are gone, it's all garbage. The self fulfilling prophecy of the world is shit, full of useless people has all come true. He's still there, but barely, he's most directly coming to terms with the reality of this situation, his complete insanity, he has a faint memory of everything before, only enough to know what a mess he is now. Just enough to make it even harder and more depressing.
The end of this entire breakdown culminates in 'Waiting for something' and is punctuated by the beating of toms and a restrained bassline, the vocals are forced bursts of monotone thoughts. Throughout this downfall he's become less and less emotional, almost robotic, except for the brief internal chorus of fighting back, he's a medicated zombie, the only emotion coming from the almost lost part of him that existed in the first few tracks.
here waiting for something to happen
oh no no no
they won't get me
The guitar here is truly possesed, the rhythms turning into just pure phase distortion. He's been so disillusioned but he's still fighting all the way to the end, as they come to completely take him over. By the end of the track the tom has given over to sticks banging on metal sheets, electronic distorted drum claps through left and right channels. A metal door creaks shut and it's all over. It's exhausting.
I don't know if you want to get into the mind of someone like this, it's as much a condemnation as much as it might reveal but it's never been so direct, and non stop, so immediate, there's really no stopping this back to back uncensored internal monolouge, it will continue in your head long after hearing it. If a piece of music had the possibility to literally change someone's thinking listening to it, like the backwards subliminal messages in Black Sabbath, this is probably the closest thing I have ever experienced. As much as I want to hear it again, I can't just hear the perfect catchy music anymore, this is the punk rock Executioners Song, and it's the most scary and fascinating place to be in for 28 minutes….