Somehow their cover art, a photo of a symmetrically balanced lily, seems like a totally appropriate initiation for Brief Lives’ Whistleblower. It’s, you know, a pretty flower, but simultaneously this lily looks so static and ominously aligned that I get anxious looking at it. One bio calls Brief Lives’ sound “angular,” and I think that word catches the cuts and swerves of their DC-allusive sound, an absolute compliment as I see it, appreciating the evocation of some excellent ‘90s experimental punk groups—Bluetip, Jawbox, Fugazi—that come to mind as inspiration, but something that Brief Lives reach beyond, too. Their A-side song, “Whistleblower,” is a serpentine head-nodder with this seashore sound; the rhythm section tugs and breaks and reassembles to set a structure their singer can shout-sing off from. While the A-side is more mid-tempo and more ambient, my preference is for the rocking “No Voice” B-side, which makes full use of the band’s ability to stagger and sway dramatically without collapsing. So Brief Lives sounds like a creep lily. Or angular. Or to put it another way: think of playing Pac-Man, only the trails of dot food are trails of blood drops, or maybe think of you playing Pac-Man as the ghosts Pinky, Inky, Blinky, or Clyde; Brief Lives is the music you listen to before you try to kill Pac-Man. Free listens on bandcamp, try “No Voice” first, and if you like, send away for the elusive white vinyl.
–Jim Joyce (Self-released)