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Saturday, June 18, 2011

22. Viva Voce: Get Yr Blood Sucked Out

I am excited to be writing about a fantastic band...Portland's own Viva Voce. Viva Voce trace their beginnings to Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1998, but relocated to Portland in 2001. Choosing an album to review for you was difficult because I cannot definitively say one is better than another, but their sinister sounding fourth album, 2006's Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (an allusion to the evils of the record industry), is when I first heard them. It's also their debut for Barsuk Records.

Viva Voce, in 2006, consisted of the husband and wife team of Kevin and Anita Robinson (they have since added two members). For this record, they played every instrument save trumpets on one song and an extra piano on another. Yes, we are talking about another guitar/drum combo from the same time period as The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Deadboy & the Elephantmen, but, to be sure, there are different influences at work here. Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is lush, sultry, and complex, and is miles away from the garage rock sound of their aforementioned contemporaries.

The album begins with "Believer", a tense-chant of a song that sets an eerie tone. Sebastian says it sounds "like monsters marching". Kevin and Anita lay out incantations as a cool, calm two-voice harmony (they've shared vocals throughout their career)..."I'm a believer now/I'm a believer now/And there's nothing that I can do/To keep me safe from you". And as if she absolutely could not wait, Anita begins shredding her first of many guitar solos about forty-five seconds in. On "When Planets Collide" we get a taste of a song structure similar to "Alive With Pleasure" from their third album The Heat Can Melt Your Brain. The shifting movements of "When Planets Collide" create the feel of a mini-opus.

Kevin finally takes lead vocals on "From The Devil Himself", the album's main attention grabber (and my favorite track). Once again, Anita's guitar screams at the top of its lungs while Kevin sings in his powder-coated, Victor DeLorenzo voice (of Violent Femmes fame). I guess I also have a thing for hand claps. Other standout tracks include the marathon "So Many Miles", the piano-laden "We Do Not F**k Around", the pretty pop of "Faster Than A Dead Horse", the surprising catchiness in the wispy-soft 60s sound of "Special Thing"(again, love the sweet hand claps), and the weary "Never Be Like Yesterday", where the mood of the song matches its all night fight between two halves of a concrete random couple. I don't know if this song is written from experience, but the Robinsons were certainly on the same page for this album.

This Tuesday (6/21) marks the release of their sixth album The Future Will Destroy You. They'll be performing a free show at 6:00 at Music Millennium on E. Burnside in Portland. I'll be there. Maybe you can get out for the night too.

Here are two videos from Get Yr Blood Sucked Out. The first is the official video for "From The Devil Himself". The second is a performance of "Believer" from Easy Street Records in 2006. Perhaps I'm amazed because I can barely sing and breathe at the same time, but watching Kevin play drums with one hand (notice the stick twirls), play harmonica with the other (including solos), and singing to boot just boggles my mind. You also get to see Anita looking cute in her typical cowgirl-esque outfit while melting your face off with her guitar work. It's not quite what you expect.

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