It’s really special when an album you love dearly turns 15. As a former Jonas Brothers’ superfan in her mid-20s, most of the records that have left a mark on my life are barely pre-teens, so I’m only just now experiencing the harrowing reality that time never stops. Or maybe time is just an illusion. It sure feels that way right now during a global pandemic with no promise for future gigs or future anything. But, maybe Ludo’s Broken Bride will help you escape your seemingly apocalyptic world for another one as it does for me. My favorite album from Ludo is celebrating her quinceañera this summer and I think it’s time for me to rave about it.
Broken Brideis one of those records that effortlessly creeps back into my life from time to time. I call it ‘Rediscovering Ludo’ because every single time I listen to Broken Bride (or any of their releases), I feel like it’s the very first time all over again. Introducing Broken Bride to someone new usually means I will listen to it a handful of times in a row and try to reimagine the record as a newcomer. For the past 15 years, I’ve grown and relearned how to love this album from different perspectives of my life, which is why it’s made such an impact on it and the way I absorb and love music.
The EP consists of just five movements: Pt. 1: Broken Bride, Save Our City, Pt. 2: Tonight’s The Night, Pt. 3: The Lamb and The Dragon, and finally Pt. 4: Morning In May. As a rock opera, Broken Bride possesses a variety of sounds ranging from the traditional rock vibe to a western rock sound (complete with bandit whistling) and comes to a dramatic, tearful end with a piano ballad. Some early melodies reprise over other songs and when paired with creative, storytelling lyrics you’d find on Panic! At The Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Broken Bride becomes a musical masterpiece. It’s thunderous and it’s tranquil, it’s contemplative and it’s impulsive. There’s zombies and dinos and dragons, oh my! It tackles grief and has a shimmer of hope. It’s got everything because it’s a tale from start to finish but, for continuity’s sake, I want to talk about the songs in a different, more chronological order.
In my opinion, the storyline of Broken Bride begins with “Save Our City.” Taking place in 2005, when the album was released, “Save Our City” acts as an interlude and tells the story of an apocalyptic world taken over by zombies. It begins with a conversation between the mayor of an unnamed city and a civilian, who is trying to rally the city’s people to rise against the dead. The mayor feels hopeless in this battle and inadequate to lead his people, so amid the discussion, he shoots himself in the head. Without missing a beat, the boy steps over the mayor’s lifeless body and takes charge to save his city.
The boy steps through the window And cries out from the ledge to the people below “There's a time to pray and there's a time to fight Anything can be a weapon if you're holding it right Defend what is yours, they will not take our souls It’s time now to rise and fight”
This song simply sets the scene for our protagonist (let’s call him Michael for biblical reasons) as he is putting his finishing touches on his time machine. You read that correctly—a time machine. The wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey goodness of a time-traveling story.
Michael, who has been working on his machine for the past fifteen years, finally decides it’s time to go. The world is going to shit and the only thing that would help ease his troubles would be to hold his wife again. He decides that night to try and open the time portal that will transport him back to the day his wife died.
“Save Our City” bleeds right into “Tonight’s The Night,” which is technically the album’s second movement. It serves as an internal monologue for Michael, who explains to us that his wife died in a car accident back in May 1989.
Oh baby, baby, how I lost my mind Time is quite the killer when you're left behind The airbag held you 'til the engine slept At home your pillow cooled while the willows wept
This song is the shortest on the album but is crucial to the story because it’s the night he finally revs up his time machine and makes his initial trip back in time. However, there’s a misfire, and he ends up in the prehistoric age and finds himself fighting off pterodactyls as he tries to fix his machine.
As the album’s actual first song, “Broken Bride” really gets into Michael’s mindset and the way he’s handling his grief over losing his wife so tragically, which is not well. He spent fifteen whole years designing this machine to go back and save her life, and now he’s crash-landed in a world of dinosaurs. Throughout this record, Michael battles all kinds of monsters from zombies to dinosaurs, and later on, a dragon. I feel like I can understand his frustration, especially when he has to repair his time machine after its maiden voyage in an age where science hasn’t exactly been discovered yet. I think the most jarring thing about this scene for him, though, is the fact that his crash site reminds him of the car accident that took his wife.
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 Like winter nights, the stars, the ice all intertwined to hold and keep Like petals pressed in sheets, making love to moonlight in our sleep And now above the pits of tar, in a cave I hide That massive, screaming thing with wings of reaper's cloth It's standing just outside I must get to my machine, I will bring you back to life Fix your ruined lungs, I'll undo what time has done
Michael loses hope in getting back to his present day, let alone back to 1989. In his defeat, he seeks shelter in a cave where he carves his wife’s name into the wall, but he knows it’ll eventually be washed away with the ice age. No one will have heard of his journey or of his wife, and that idea motivates him to fix his machine and try again.
I carve your sweet name into the cave I'm sure to die All my strife has been in vain The glaciers come and wash my words away
The machine fires up, the portal opens, and Michael narrowly escapes the Jurassic world he crashed into. This time, however, he’s traveled into the future to the very end of the world. This dystopian world is gruesome and always reminds me of Alex Pardee’s artwork. Through rapid lyrics, Ludo describes what Earth looks like now and it isn’t pretty. The oceans have dried up, leaving corpses of marine life in its wake. The sun is black, which makes the world void of light. The town is riddled with ongoing earthquakes. Fear has overthrown civilization and the apocalypse has officially settled in with the Four Horsemen and all. This song is caked in religious undertones, which is why I named our protagonist Michael.
In the Book of Revelation, the archangel Michael becomes the hero during the War in Heaven, slaying a dragon and defeating Satan, all that jazz. This is exactly what happens in our story, but with a twist, of course. As Michael watches innocent people die in the line of the Dragon’s fire, he realizes that this battle isn’t his to fight and decides he needs to flee, he needs to make his way to 1989 and save his wife’s life.
I watch these people fall The Dragon shrieks and burns it all I flip the circuits on, I've got dragons of my own The portal glows and my machine's destroyed
While a little vague, I always interpret this bridge as the portal blowing up, killing the Dragon, and destroying Michael’s machine once and for all. The end of the song can be taken in many ways, but I think the war ends, Michael meets God, and God grants him his final wish: to see his wife again. He travels for a final time and finds himself outside of his home with his wife still in bed. It’s finally May 1989.
And now I'm coming home, my dear The light is warm, outside at dawn The garden has no weeds, no grave beneath the tree Through the silent house, my love, after all Curled up in a ball, there you are...
Michael crawls into bed with his wife and cuddles her for the first time in fifteen years. It’s the morning that she will die. Through this song, he speaks blatantly about the grief he endured, about how his friends and family tried to help him cope, but that he knew only his wife could console him. He tries to savor these minutes with her before she frantically gets out of bed and waves goodbye to him as she leaves for work. He stops her, gets in on the passenger side, and chooses to die by her side in that fateful car accident.
As you're starting the car and I'm tearing inside I knock on your window, you stop just in time Around to the other side I say, "Baby, I thought I'd come along for the ride."
I've been waiting for so long (Time slows and I take your hand) To touch you and sleep in your eyes (I hold you as we lose control) Together, our hearts beating so hard Hold on, baby, we're almost home
Broken Bride was the first rock album I’ve ever heard that told a continuous story from start to finish, and before that, I only experienced this form of storytelling through musicals. Ludo has without a doubt helped shape my taste in music, which is a solid mixture of Broadway and emo bands from the early 2000s, and my love for live performances. Two of my most memorable gig moments came from seeing Ludo in concert.
In 2010, Ludo released their third studio albumPrepare the Preparationsand toured it around the US. As they performed their single “Whipped Cream,” they had the crowd do the dance from the music video, which is something I have never experienced before in my life, and I’ve honestly never experienced it since. It created this foolish atmosphere and had fans laughing at themselves and one another, forming a bond between us that I carry with me still a decade later.
My favorite moment, however, was from a concert in 2011. Ludo had the audience sit on the floor, disconnected their instruments from the pickups, and walked through the crowd singing “Love Me Dead” acoustically. I’ve been to so many shows now and that hasn’t happened since but has absolutely changed the live music game for me forever.
One thing that this quarantine has brought us all has been music. From a surprise Taylor Swift record to livestream concerts, music still strives to be a steady part of our lives. And finally, after ten years, Ludo is back in the studio once again, preparing to bring a little more light to this hellish year.
Rhiannon Levengood is a medical assistant and cat mom from the Greater Philadelphia area. When she’s not taking care of her oncology patients, she occupies her time by writing music reviews for Cut It Out Magazine and Galaxy Magazine, and by spending her paycheck on growing her vinyl collection.