Naming your album after an obscure book of Bukowski poetry is a bit of a risky move when your core fan base is comprised primarily of punters who fall well below the legal drinking/driving age. After all, most people don't discover his tawdry tales until well into their college years, and even then most of them don't make a lick of sense until at least a decade later, if ever. Then again, Chiodos have never had much in common with their Warped brethren, what with their grandiose, Queen-aping aspirations and nearly indefinable sound that owes as much to prog-rock and classical music as it does to modern hardcore. Their mainstream success is puzzling given their propensity for larynx-shredding screams, triple-time breakdowns and Craigery Owens' unique vocal timber, but one can't help but wonder if a decade after Radiohead rewrote the rulebook with OK Computer if the Michigan-bred sextet aren't the next chapter in the evolution of rock music.
Simply put, few albums this year reach for the stars as assiduously as Bone Palace Ballet. That it fails as much as it succeeds seems almost beside the point, because in a year where most bands seem to be playing it safe, Chiodos have pulled out all the stops and made a bizarrely gigantic record. Everything is bigger and bolder this time around, from the even more ridiculous song titles to the odd time signatures of their string-and-brass accompaniment and monologue-riddled breakdowns, leaving the whole thing reverberating like a strange Victorian notion of Hell.
They go big out of the box, with the labyrinth guitars and mountainous keyboards of "Is it Progression if a Cannibal Uses a Fork?" packing a huge wallop, and follow that up with the piano-led behemoth "Lexington (Joey Pea Pot with a Monkey Face)," which bares more than a passing resemblance to Muse's "Sunburn."
"I Didn't Say I was Powerful, I Said I was a Wizard" is where their screamo chops hit the pop fan, with a lovely cascade of piano and a chorus that, while mildly thought provoking, rattles around maddeningly in your brain like Pacman. Despite its trite title, "Intensity in Ten Cities" manages moments of measured poignancy, while "Life is a Perception of Your own Reality" reminds of Sunny Day Real Estate with its synapse-bursting tempo and sawing, baroque-tinged string intro. Not everything on display here is a winner, and while some of the band's more outlandish ideas have, surprisingly, panned out well, others, like "Teeth the Size of Piano Keys" screamo-by-numbers and "A Letter from Janelle" overly-melodramatic, even by emo standards, caterwauling, fall flat.
Much like aforementioned grandiloquent sonic travelers Muse, Chiodos find themselves either worshipped or utterly reviled, factions forming on either side to defend their bombastic vision or ridicule their every misstep, no matter how minor. The leaps forward they've taken on Bone Palace Ballet are significant, however, so are the growing pangs, and if they are to truly ascend to the next level, Chiodos need to learn to temper their ambition with just the slightest bits of restraint. They're not quite the future of 21st century rock music, at least not yet, but they adventurous path they blaze here, flaws and all, finds them poised on the cusp of something huge.