Brakes don’t quite take enough risks to be truly magnificent.
Lou Thomas 2009-04-17
Brighton stalwarts Brakes have made three albums of above-average British indie rock. What marks them out as above average is their melodic and lyrical invention, most easily compared with fellow Sussex renegades British Sea Power. But while BSP can often be relied upon to lean into staggering, wild imaginative work, Brakes don’t quite take enough risks to be truly magnificent.
Two Shock is a fantastic start to Touchdown, with a stupenduous rolling Marc Beatty bassline and a fine, cold Nico-esque vocal from Eamon Hamilton which perfectly compliments lines like, ''All I grow is disillusioned''. Although it's far more interesting to hear him sing, ''I covered my body in bacofoil and waited for the sun to come out''.
There are also equally visceral but more punkish moments like Red Rag, a thrilling if deranged ninety seconds of drunken tramp ranting over Idlewild referencing post-hardcore guitars.
It all falls down with songs like Crush On You. The band obviously have ideas, so it's impossible not wonder why they churn out this sort of sub-Pixies drivel. Worry About It Later it similarly forgettable but more in a generic, jangle-heavy Byrds manner.
Moving moments of honesty like Why Tell The Truth (When It's Easier To Lie) fare better. ''I'm gonna tell you why I cry my nights away it's 'cause the tears help the memories come out'', may be raw words but mean Brakes always feel genuine.
The fun, nostalgic rock 'n' roll tones of Hey Hey and the glorious finale of Leaving England are certain album highlights. The latter is marvellous shimmering dreampop, redolent of Turin Brakes, Nick Drake and a more cheerful Spiritualized.
All is not lost for Brakes. If it took Jarvis Cocker 15 years to prove himself as a major and consistent songwriting talent with Pulp, there's no reason why these boys won't achieve blanket greatness at some stage.
To achieve as they deserve only requires the bravery to drop their least interesting ideas and exchange them for the truly wild.