There’s nothing that Americans love more than the makeover. They make over themselves and their houses in the hopes of changing their lives for the better. Maybe this is why we love it (and I use the term `we’ incredibly loosely) when celebrities go through incredible transformations and embrace them through comeback after comeback. We need only look at Janet Jackson, Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and soon Whitney Houston as she attempts her own rebirth of epic proportions after disastrous marriage with the pimp that is Bobby Brown. Americans have probably never heard of Breaks Co-Op, but in their native New Zealand, they’ve gone through a grand makeover of American proportion.
When Zane Lowe and Hamish Clark began their musical collaboration in the late ’90s, they were a hip-hop team, creating electronic music. That original pairing split up and changed careers, with Lowe becoming a well-known BBC Radio1 DJ and sometime MTV2 UK VJ, only to come together again in England where they met vocalist Andy Lovegrove. This new trio, still called Breaks Co-Op, is vastly different than their original incarnation, in style if not so much in personnel.
I remember the time I first heard Doves’ “Caught by the River.” I was intensely captivated by the guitars, acoustic, yet played with fiery passion. So too was I moved by the smooth voice of Jimi Goodwin, earnest yet slightly dreamy. Ever since then I’ve been waiting to hear something like it, and even the Doves themselves haven’t come close. Then along came these three kiwis in Breaks Co-Op. Andy Lovegrove’s voice is a thing with feathers, filled with hope, passion and intimacy. It’s no wonder that the trio’s first single in this incarnation won “Song of the Year” from the New Zealand Music Awards. The Sound Inside is their debut, or at least their debut as `the new’ Breaks Co-Op, and it proves that Midlake hasn’t quite cornered the market on ’70s AM soft rock.
The initial title track imagines what a Chicago or America song written today might sound like, while “Wonder” finds them mixing this newfound guitar style in with their trip-hop roots. I suppose that Breaks Co-Op are like the kiwi version of Everlast. “The Otherside” is that single that won all of the awards and started the band on the road to national acclaim in their homeland. This song, among others on the album, has garnered several comparisons to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, which isn’t necessarily unwarranted. There are glorious harmonies set to organic folk rhythms that are hard not to like. It’s also the song that finally made me think of “Caught by the River” again. “Settle Down” also resembles the Doves as well as Gomez.
“Last Night” is pretty much just “Everybody Hurts” as done by Massive Attack, which isn’t necessarily good or bad, that’s just what it is. “A Place for You” again brings back that mellow beach bonfire feel found in CSNY. “Duet” is a highlight, sultry and smooth, earning it comparisons to none other than Marvin Gaye. The rest of the album is just as strong, varying between chillout, DJ Shadow-like beats, more acoustic wonderment, and soulful compositions. “Too Easily” is a wistful midnight stroll, relaxed, but just a little on edge, while “Twilight” is Pink Floyd meets Portishead.
I’ve just thought of a great new show for VH-1 called Extreme Band Makeover. They take bands that have either plateaued or bottomed out entirely (they can even mine from their previous show, Bands Reunited) and have them completely change up their style. A Flock of Seagulls could do rap, the English Beat could do heavy metal, and Genesis could write music that wouldn’t make me want to throw up in my own mouth. It’d be great! Breaks Co-Op have provided the blueprint with the already successful The Sound Inside. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Americans embrace a new kind of makeover.
CSNY- Déjà Vu
Doves- The Last Broadcast
R.E.M.- Automatic for the People