CD Review – Piranha Brothers “The Blinding Speed Of Trust”
Entering their fourth decade as a working band, Piranha Brothers are not going to suddenly sell a million records and headline SXSW in Austin. False starts and broken promises litter their career like any band that has tried to navigate the tumultuous waters of the music industry. There were two albums, released on MCA’s imprint in Japan and probably harder to find than Robert Johnson’s skeleton. Leaving behind their Chicago roots in 1992, the band took up residency in Hawaii and have spent the last twenty years playing at least 300 gigs a year in the bars that tourists haunt after drinking too much rum on the beach all day long. Despite the ridiculous schedule playing the same requests night after night without losing an ounce of passion, the band found the inspiration to release a classic rock record with The Blinding Speed of Trust. It may not appear on a single Best Of list in 2012 but Piranha Brothers have done one better. They have taken a long and winding career in music and distilled it to its most authentic elements, creating twelve original songs that hold their ground with the standards of the rock canon that they play night after night.
The band’s Chicago roots are evident in their blending of blues and soul with their rock ‘n’ roll. Opener “Good” moves with the soulful swagger of Soul Brothers Six’s classic “Some Kind of Wonderful” setting the tone for the entire record. The influences of the earliest blues to modern rock and soul bands like Huey Lewis & the News can be felt in the notes but the work stands on its own as a wholly original concoction using those same ingredients. “Lucky Pillow (Breathe)” breezes by with a hint of the Hawaiian air the Piranha Brothers have been tasting the last few decades. It’s a bright eyed song of love that is followed by an ode to a daughter on “Caledonia”.
The album takes far more interesting twists when the guys dig at their past. The title song bears love’s scar as Michael and Tom share vocals over a driving piano laced ballad singing – “When I say that you said that you’ll stay in my head / And I know that you know without you I can’t go.” On “The King Of Portland”, the music grows eclectic with mandolins adorning the sadness at the core of the lyrics. Lyrically, the lament could be for a friend, a lover, or perhaps, music itself and the twists and turns it brought to these music industry veterans. It’s an unexpectedly powerful moment on such an easy rock and roll record and the two ballads compete for the throne as the centerpiece of the album.
The sense of humor that emerges on songs like “Lost” keep the record positive and reveal the band’s Warren Zevon like outlook on this weird world. It fits with the band’s blues roots which are explored on “I Found Love” and “The 23rd Mojo”. With just a flick of the guitar strings, the band can turn on the Chicago Blues and deliver a soulful performance. It rounds out the musical palette that colors this record. Years and years on the stage have taught Piranha Brothers every trick of the trade. Hell, they probably invented some of the tricks themselves. For a band that lost its way more than once and still claws its way to a stage almost every night of the year for as long as you’ve been enjoying records, The Blinding Speed of Trust is a brilliant moment in the sun for two men who have played their way through more dark nights than you and I will ever see.