‘Blind Worms, Pious Swine’ Showcases ORL and Teri Gender Bender at Their Best (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Rock history is littered with dynamic duos. That’s a truism that you just can’t escape. Lennon and McCartney. Richards and Jagger. Iommi and Osbourne. Page and Plant. Part of rock’s great charm and lasting appeal is that it’s propelled by these interesting push/pull combinations of conflicting personalities, ones that might not entirely jive but that, despite themselves, combine to form a greatness that far surpasses either on their own.

Modern rock is somewhat sketchy in this regard. The last decade or so has been fairly light on the classic set up. Maybe it’s just too early for the great duos to be fully known yet, I don’t know. But they’re out there, that’s for sure. Look at Teri Gender Bender and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. It’s not quite the traditional set up, granted, but given enough time and it’ll most likely go down as one of the great duos of this decade.

What makes them so intriguing is that neither of them particularly need each other. While it’s true that Gender Bender probably owes her initial success and current direction on Rodriguez-Lopez (who famously plucked Le Butcherettes from obscurity and christened them the next big thing), it’s not difficult to imagine a world where Gender Bender would’ve driven Le Butcherettes to greatness regardless. Still, they benefited from ORL’s mentorship and support. In turn, Gender Bender has helped keep ORL fresh.

It makes sense, then, that Teri would play into the great ORL album dump of 2016. The third outing, Blind Worms, Pious Swine, is essentially a duet between the two powerhouses of modern rock, one which showcases both their influences on each other and the heights they reach when they work together. This is not merely a redux of Bosnian Rainbows; this is two passionate artists pushing each other to create a wholly new sound out of the familiar threads of their own uniqueness.

Also unlike Bosnian Rainbows, ORL is the clear leader of this effort; Teri plays her part as little more than a supporting role, though her stank is clearly all over this release. As both a background vocalist—where she serves to punctuate ORL’s vocals with her contrasting wails—and a musician, her presence here melds perfectly with Rodriguez-Lopez.

The dynamic is established immediately; the album’s opening track, “Vanishing Tide,” sets the tone for Blind Worms, Pious Swine beautifully as the two sing together over a subdued ballad. The sounds of its opener are contrasted directly by its follow up, “Atlantis is Rising.” The influence of Le Butcherettes is felt heavily here, as the track sounds like it could’ve been an unreleased B-side from Cry is for the Flies.

Throughout it all, the record channels a New Wave spirit better than almost any retro album has for years. Heady guitars are complimented by Gender Bender’s keys. The track “Mariposa,” in particular, feels like it could’ve come from a coke fueled session from 1984, though in the hands of these two the entire oeuvre is elevated far beyond anything the 80’s had to offer.

Quite simply, Blind Worms, Pious Swine is the best album so far from the record dump. It’s a wonder this hasn’t surfaced before now, but hey, who cares about the whys? It’s out now, and we finally get the chance to see this duo working together again. Like all great relationships, neither of them need the other to be amazing, but when they’re together sparks fly and magic happens. Here’s hoping they manage to do it again at some point in the future.

OTHER ALBUMS IN GREAT ORL RECORD DUMP OF 2016:

Sworn Virgins

Corazones

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