Those like me who became interested in hearing the Brakes upon discovering that the band was made up of members of British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade and Tenderfoot, might be in some shock to discover how different the music of Brakes is to that of its predecessors. After the initial shock, however, there is a feeling of elatedness at discovering how great the Brakes are. Give Blood is the debut album, recorded in five days, from the band that formed one drunken night in Brighton. Rather than a Britpop or post-punk feel, there’s a definite country punk / Pixies progeny vibe that works to great effect.
Give Blood consists of a few songs that the band and fans call either country punk or anti-folk interspersed with short biting punk songs that alternate between political and silly. Eamon Hamilton, the `fifth’ BSP member, has a voice that could easily be mistaken for early Black Francis material. The cover of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always” and opener “Ring a Ding Ding” are perfect examples of that Pixies-esque sound. “NY Pie,” with its repetition of the words “get me a pony” and the cover of Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” display the country inspired aspect of the album. Truthfully, the album could have consisted of just those kinds of songs and still be considered a worthy debut, but it is the really short punk numbers that can be the most appealing.
Brakes only started considering making themselves a real recordable entity after the popularity of the video for their thirty second song, “Pick Up the Phone” which features Hamilton calling out names including “W” and imploring them in a punk manner to do just what the song’s title says. “Comma Comma Comma Full Stop” is just long enough to shout that song’s title. Brilliant. Then there’s “Heard About Your Band” in which Hamilton hams up the accent and sings “You shared a cab with Karen O.” as well as “You met Electralane,” before ending with “I heard about your band, whatever dude.” Then “All Night Disco Party” mimics the disco resurgence going on right now with bands like LCD Soundsystem and other DFA mainstays. There’s also a little old school Modest Mouse in there.
No one review seems to get the history of the band right. One I read seems to think that Eamon Hamilton was the frontman for BSP and one the drummer. Eamon is the frontman for Brakes, but played keyboards and some percussion for BSP. I also saw one review that seemed to think “Jackson” was originally done by London band Duke Spirit! Huh? Maybe this is why some of the reaction is lukewarm when it needs not be. Brakes are so different than the bands the members came from that you can’t really compare, you should simply ignore the history and find the album a wonderful piece of punk, country, folk and rock.
McLusky- The Difference Between You and Me Is I’m Not on Fire
Gang of Four- Entertainment!
The Pixies- Bossanova