Published Feb 27, 2020Big Blood are a band that defy categorization. Formed from the ashes of psychedelic juggernaut Cerberus Shoal and existing alongside the acoustic maelstrom of Fire on Fire, this eclectic crew sit somewhere in between those poles. The strange Maine-located domestic partnership pairing of Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella blend folk wisdom, a heavy sense of experimentation and a literary sensibility into a crafty brew that is somehow both weird and utterly bewitching.
Do You Wanna Have a Skeleton Dream? is the first Big Blood release to feature the pair's daughter Quinnisa as an official member, although her voice has been captured and dribbled across most releases since at least as far back as the 2013 masterpiece Radio Valkyrie 1905-1917. For this release, though, she shares songwriting and instrumentation duties with her parents, sings lead on a pair of tunes, and harmonizes beautifully with her mother across the remaining tracks. Mulkerin's signature howl is nowhere to be found, but it would feel out of place on these more polished songs.
This is quite possibly the most coherent Big Blood record so far, with the most straightforward songwriting. There are even moments that smack of Motown. "Sweet Talker" and "Sugar" wouldn't be out of place on the recent Numero Group compilation, Basement Beehive. The girl group tunefulness is actually a refreshing change in direction from this notoriously challenging outfit.
There is still a fair share of the deep-fried Big Blood take on traditional American song form to be found. Sneakily obtuse moments can be evinced on tracks such as "Pox," "Providence," and "Heaven or South Portland." This balancing act of differing modalities — along with the sequencing of the tracks — creates a uniquely appealing dynamic as the album plays out.
Big Blood might be just as well known for the cover songs they record as they are for their original material. Songs by Can, Skip James, Syd Barrett, Blondie and Captain Beefheart have received a Big Blood makeover. Here, they present an out-of-this-world version of Schubert's "Ave Maria," which is as intriguing as it is an interesting choice. It serves as the perfect closing moment to an already highlight-filled release and will leave many listeners desirous of their own skeleton dreams. (Feeding Tube)