Until I was in high school, the music that filled my iTunes library only consisted of Jimmy Buffett, Star Wars soundtracks that I used to play in the background while having epic battles with my LEGO (no shame), and my “Mix” playlist that consisted of songs passed on from my sister when she set up my first mp3 player1. Admittedly, at that time, it did not really interest me to explore music and expand my iTunes library beyond what I had. I only really had an iTunes library as a result my parents and siblings sharing stuff with me. Even with 30+ songs on my mp3 player, I rarely used it2. Oddly enough, playing music and actually listening to and appreciating it really was a foreign experience for me at the time. Songs to me existed solely only as single entities used for background noise, not as a collective piece of art that could share an experience or tell a story. However, my general disinterest and narrow perception of music started to drastically change when Marc and I started to share the car ride to and from high school. Already a lover of the arts and music, Marc, empowered with a cassette AUX jack, played different types of music that he had discovered. Whether I liked it, in cases of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Trasatlanticism”, or not, such as with the cases of Coldplay, the half hour commute to and from school was the time to learn to appreciate songs and music as a whole. Hit play and let the album roll was the rule of the ride.
The hours in the car we both shared only continued to grow, and subsequently, I started being exposed to more music. My narrow view began to widen. It soon became apparent to me that it was not music that generally disinterested me, but rather that I had not been open enough to explore it and give it a fair chance. Queue LUDO. While I could talk a lengths about LUDO as a whole, the rest of their discography is a discussion for another day. What is important for this discussion is that Marc, newly equipped with burned CDs from a friend, added LUDO’s “You’re Awful, I Love You” to our music rotations in hopes of pleasing his angsty teenage brother actively voicing his dislike towards Coldplay. Little did Marc know, he put LUDO on my radar, and he subsequently kickstarted my independent exploration and development of my musical taste.
After I had listened to LUDO’s “You’re Awful, I Love You” a few more times throughout our car rides. I was hooked. No other music I had experienced before had their unique, descriptive lyrics3, unconventional song writing, and unique instrumentation4. It was beyond refreshing. While “You’re Awful, I Love You” primarily consists of “radio” songs, the couple of exceptions such as “Lake Pontchartrain” and “In Space” showed me that music could have the creativity and imagination to build a musical world or tell a story. Eager to experience more songs like “Lake Pontchartrain” and “In Space”, I soon delved more into the band and pulled the rest of their discography from Marc’s burned CDs. After uploading them to my iTunes, despite the small provided album art real estate in the iTunes Store UI, the album art of Broken Bride caught my eye.
Giving a high resolution version of the album art a hard look now as I write this, I now see that Broken Bride’s album art is a great example of album art at its finest. It now does not seem so coincidental that the album really caught my eye back then. I am confident that had this album existed back in the 60s and 70s, when album art displayed on big vinyl envelopes had arguably a greater influence on sales and shelf appeal, it would have flown off the shelves like crazy.
What really sparked my intrigue with this album art as opposed to the others in LUDO’s discography was the picture in the lower right of the album. The picture of a shadowed male against a heavily forested, mountainous, and overcast background juxtaposed with the title “Broken Bride” really sparked my curiosity. In hindsight, I now see that the reason “Broken Bride”’s album art worked so well at catching my eye was due to its elegant representation of the story behind the music without giving too much away. Swirling, ominous green auras and grunge-splattered fonts, yep, no weddings or crying brides here.
At a first glance at the track list, it became obvious that this EP was fully dedicated to a consistent story throughout. A whole album dedicated to telling one story? Count me in! The idea of an entire EP rock opera from LUDO truly excited me. What could LUDO tell given 28 minutes instead of 4? What lied behind that album art? Who is that in the lower right? With a quick double click on “Pt 1 Broken Bride”, crescendoing drums, fast-paced guitar, and the atmospheric electricity of the moog immediately catapulted me into the midst of the plight of the nameless hero.
Fifteen years ago, in the May of 1989, the hero lost his wife to a tragic car accident. Destroyed by his loss, our hero vows to undo the events that so cruelly robbed him of his one true love. Motivated by photos, memories, and the dream of holding his wife again, he wrestled with Einstein’s legacy for fifteen years, gained command of spacetime, and constructed a crude time machine.
After setting the clocks for May, 1989, the machine’s circuits fail, and, instead of being greeted with an early summer breeze, the machine launches him face first into a mud pit back in the Jurassic Period. Pterodactyls dominate the sky, as now, he escapes to hide in a cave separated from his machine. Our shell-shocked hero scratches the name of his love on the cave walls as an intense instrumental section transitions the narrative focus.
For anyone new to LUDO, Pt 1 perfectly showcases their dedication to lyrical refinement and storytelling. In Pt. 1, their lyrical skill is best showcased with how they chose to describe the protagonists emotion and scenes. With highlights such as: “Like motor oil down my throat, I couldn’t speak / I dropped the phone, the burning flares, the steam, your hair / Bits of glass, they sparkled everywhere”. This distraught verse coupled with the rolling drums and eerie moog put the listener right in the middle of the shock and trauma at the scene of the car crash. Additionally, Volpe’s fast-paced, urgent delivery throughout the song perfectly conveys the absolute resolve and dedication our hero has in rescuing his love.
Tampering with spacetime and the past do not go without consequences. Haunting, abrupt chords show that our hero’s clashes with the Jurassic period have had exponential effects on the future ultimately culminating in the apocalypse. Monstrous environmental decay, a dragon, and zombies spread death and catastrophic destruction throughout the city; at City Hall, a little boy confronts the Mayor as the survivors sit surrounded by terror below. Defeated, the Mayor proclaims his alliance to King Simius and takes his life. LUDO’s rallying instrumentation and evocative vocal delivery accompany the brave little boy as he decides to not go down without a fight and, uniting the survivors below, he leads the final stand against the rapture. As the song decays, the sound of the City Hall’s bell tower intermittently echoes poignant bell tones as the fate of the little boy and the survivors is left unknown.
Wind gusts and an upbeat guitar line sweep the focus back to the cave where our hero remains cornered. Coming to grips with his situation, our hero turns away from self-pity, and motivated by the memory of a vacation with his wife, he becomes determined to escape the pterodactyls and return to his machine. Pumping himself up, our hero throws down his etching rock and exits the cave.
Andrew and company’s layered, hectic delivery set the scene for the chaos as our hero narrowly dodges the pterodactyls, outmaneuvers the raptor, and reaches his machine. The machine’s widgets and gauges vibrate and snap the fabric of spacetime launching our hero back to the future, however, low fuel cells and rapid heavy metal riffs hurdle our hero head over heels straight ahead back to the scene of the apocalypse, where the situation surrounding City Hall has dramatically worsened. Our jarred hero sits in awe at the sight of bloody seas, dying stars, and engulfing flames while a catchy, foot-tap inducing, acoustic, western rhythm contrasts the scene of absolute terror.
A shaking, shell-shocked soldier of the rebellion sits in the ruins of battle and tells our hero of King Simius’ survival and his lead of the continuing rebellion against the Tyrant . However, their conversation is cut short when the dragon is summoned from across the ruins. With LUDO’s descriptive, atmospheric instrumentation at its best, erupting, volcanic guitars and hollowing winds from the moog bring us face to face with the rampaging dragon. The dragon shoots flames onto the remaining survivors. The last of humanity hangs on by a thread.
The rapid riffs of the dragon’s destruction fade as our hero looks at his machine. Hand on the ignition, our hero glares at the dragon. He fires up the circuits with the last remaining fumes of fuel, and the dragon is sucked into spacetime limbo destroying the machine in the process. At such an integral moment in the story, LUDO’s moog unifies the album as a whole with a tonal call back to Pt 1 accompanying the destruction of our hero’s last hope of seeing his wife again. Defeated, our hero weeps over the remnants of his machine. However, the eerie silence of the wasteland is broken by the elegant sound of harps.
The story of our hero, The Traveler, concludes in Pt 4. However, I will refrain talking about Pt 4 in this post, as I believe that it is best experienced without having any prior context. I highly recommend that you give this EP a listen and experience the conclusion of the journey for yourself.
Just like an exciting movie, when the album came to a close, I found myself thinking about the story for days. In the boring moments in high school classes, I would find myself reimagining all the different scenes and characters, adding new detail here and there, building my own vision of the story. Throughout the album, LUDO’s consistently imaginative lyrics add such color and life to the story. Moreover, in the emotional moments, such as the destruction of The Traveler’s time machine, and in the chaotic moments of terror, such as the summoning of the dragon, their instrumentation is able to weave an epic, emotional tale better than any words could. What really set this album apart from LUDO’s other discography, is, in my opinion, their exploration of multiple musical styles. Pt 1 brings the listener to a familiar electric, rock alternative style characteristic of the band. However, in Pt 3, LUDO explores into heavy rock and metal in addition to western acoustics. To top it off, the album closes with a grand finale on the piano.
Every time I pop this EP on, in addition to taking me on the wild, tragic journey of our hero, The Traveler, it reminds me of a couple memories and great times I have had in my life so far. It brings me back to early high school and the beginning of my independent exploration of my music taste. Listening to Broken Bride also takes me back to this past summer when Marc and I woke up at 3am to tackle the long six hour drive far up North for vacation. During the car ride, the designated co-pilot DJ, Marc, played Walk the Moon’s self titled, Beach Boys, and some other fantastic records and bands in addition to Broken Bride. The drive was like old times back in high school, except this time I was in the driver’s seat, and we actually had a dedicated auxiliary cord—thank God.
I am ever grateful for Broken Bride and LUDO as they were able to show my high school self that music can be something so much more than something to play for the sake of having background noise. Just like a big blockbuster or an addicting book, music, such as “Broken Bride”, can pull you into a wild, emotional adventure with vivid characters and complex conflicts.
If you are up for taking a romantic, action-packed, apocalyptic, musical adventure through spacetime, pop in your best pair of headphones or earbuds, press play, and enjoy—just be on the look out for the pterodactyls.