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The Bruises
Self Released

The Bruises’ music feel as devised as the band’s name (since the leading talents here are duel songwriters and vocalist/guitarists, Jen Black and Aja Blue). The hooks have been presorted and organized for maximum efficiency, the lyrics feel like a continuation of each other with our girls singing about the same lousy guy (or is it just that all these guys are exactly the same to our heroines?) and his repetitive antics bent on breaking hearts.

The perpetual powerchord barrage that coats this album like a hard sugar coating is at once hard not to like and difficult to penetrate. The first half of Connected plays like a compilation of mid-nineties rock groups that faded into the soft-underbelly of a thousand indie flick soundtracks, like a pair of talented musicians attempting to appeal to everyone without being too edgy for anyone.  The lyrics dutifully veer away from meaning, instead opting for dull obviousness (example: “I look left / I look right”).

“Distraction” and “Black and Blue” are perfectly executed melodic, neo-punk diatribes that could have had the Bruises on stage at the Bronze back in 1996. It’s all sickly sweet and superb as background music, but hardly seems weighty or worthwhile when compared to the playful pop narratives and instrumental explorations of groups like Tegan and Sara or the Long Blondes (or, for that matter, the spazz and beauty of femme-fronted powerhouses like Gossip or fellow San Franciscans Erase Errata).

By the time the Bruises kick into “Found,” which is strangely labeled as an interlude although it yields the most listenable and interesting bits the band has to offer, expectations have been lowered and the aural explorations and intrinsically more interesting arrangements of Connected’s second half come crashing down like a sublime force. “Safety in Recovery” captures the listener unwittingly with a glistening guitar and keyboard interlock and splattering crescendo snare. The track negates earlier attempts and catchy chorus work with a heartfelt, half-time march that actually hits the emotional buttons it’s aiming for. “Hott Damn!” finally roils and tumbles into the semi-monotone cool the Bruises had been heading toward for forty minutes, with a nice slab of post-punk throb and selfless emoting. “Here’s To Us” and “Distance Makes the Heart Bleed” leave the first chunk of heartbreak anthems in the dust and “Found,” with its slow-creeping fog of reverb-soaked guitar finds the group at its best, exploring the possibilities of ecstasy that a great rock group can divulge.

Cut this disc in half. Toss out the first seven tracks and you’ve got a stellar EP. Too bad the Bruises start it all off with a hefty dose of toss-off filler.

Favorite Track: “Found (Interlude)”

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Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in San Francisco with a girl and a designer dog (Chihuahua vs. dachshund). He is in a band by himself and has a myspace account ( and a production company ( for freelance film and crit/journo work.

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