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Borzoi – A Prayer For War

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Have no fear, because Borzoi are doing their very most to keep Austin weird.  Blending elements of speedy McSpeedpunk, old-school lo-fi, surf-psych drums (on tracks like “The South is Risen”) and hardcore vocals, the boys from Texas have curated a sound that sits on the experimental side of familiarity, and vice versa.  And it’s weird as all hell, but what isn’t these days?

The band’s most recent album, A Prayer for War, was released on Sept. 21 in all its technicolor glory.  The album art and track names evoke Vietnam and hippie-ism, satanic rituals, candy-colored nuclear annihilation, LSD, and WAR WAR WAR.  Track names like “Kill the Irish,” “Sundays at Hirohito’s,” and “Lizardmen of the Third Reich” additionally promise something that expounds on human nature, and on violence, and conflict, but doesn’t necessarily want to stop to explain it all to you.  There isn’t time to pontificate in all the frenzy. In A Prayer for War, the bombs are dropping right in front of you.

Prayer’s first single, “Big Pink” (named for the album so beloved by your dad and mine), nestled in the middle of the album, is a 20th century microcosm.  Here, Borzoi borrow something of Nirvana’s paradigm of belittling hippies to a sleepy, drug-induced beat that eventually speeds up and crescendos into real rage.  Throughout A Prayer for War, these boys are playing with control, mostly showing you how well they can lose it. On “Big Pink” it’s more measured, and the control is lost and regained multiple times before the song suddenly snaps off.  Would Beefheart or The Holy Modal Rounders or the Mothers of Invention, exalted weirdos of “Big Pink”’s era-in-question, have even looked twice at these guys? Probably not. But they didn’t stick around long enough for Borzoi, and that’s on them.

The confusion of the rest of the album, the manic soapbox fury of Zach Wood’s lyrics and the cross-genre vortex of his guitar, blended with panicky bass (Taylor Browne), and drums that I have yet to find a word to describe (thx to drummer Rhys Woodruff) might surprise your friends and astound your neighbors as solo tracks.  Yet within the context of A Prayer for War, they affirm my notion that this album is just one long song. One fever dream about war, one grinding exorcism, one stab in the dark and nebulous world of Weird Punk for Weird People, and, at the end of the day, and in spite of all the chaos, one pretty big success.

The album ends with a standard rock track (“Sundays at Hirohito’s”) with vocals subdued, guitar kept in check and drums stuck on an FM radio beat.  It’s unabashedly upbeat compared to the rest. Whether it’s a reprieve or a foil to what came before it, it’s hard not to breathe a deep sigh while listening to it.  It’s California boredom and everything you know. It’s the sun coming up over Dresden. It’s the morning after the bomb.

A Prayer for War by Austin’s Borzoi (12XU) is available on bandcamp at https://borzoi12xu.bandcamp.com/ as well as vinyl and digital download.  

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