When you’re in the sixth grade, fashion means very little. True, we all tried to keep up with what was hip, but with a twelve-year-old body, there’s not much room to work with. I couldn’t wear the surfer clothes. I had no tan and my arms were stick skinny, so the tanktops were out. Members Only jackets were expensive and frankly I didn’t like them. I thought breakdancer parachute pants looked cool, but I couldn’t have pulled that off in a million years. What I should have gone for was a look that seems to be pervasive in music today, that of New Wave/Electroclash/Punk. Tall and skinny with hair hanging over the eyes is not only okay, it’s wicked cool. Yet now that I think about it, glasses and a mohawk just don’t work together.
New York’s the Bravery seem to have it all together. Despite the huge amounts of attention the band seems to be getting both at home and abroad, not to mention the slings and arrows from their peers, the mohawked Morrissey look alike Sam Endicott and his boys are taking it all in stride. The next in a long line of 80’s soundalikes, the Bravery have recently been taking hits from the likes of the Killers, claiming that their sound is a ripoff. High hypocrisy, indeed. True, there are songs that are reminiscent of the whiny-voiced, keyboard-laden danceable tracks on Hot Fuss, but to paraphrase Krusty the Clown, the only thing that Brandon Flowers can say is, “If this is anybody but Simon LeBon, you’re stealing my bit!”
At first glance, one would probably guess that the Bravery borrowed not only the sound, but the gameplan from the Las Vegas foursome. Like the Killers, the Bravery went to the U.K. to gain fans overseas before conquering their home country. So far, the plan is succeeding for both, but for the Bravery, it might be too early to tell. What I can tell you is this, despite Flowers’ bickering quotes, Endicott’s Bravery is superior. This all might be moot. Both bands are signed to Island, so I can just imagine a record executive trying to stir hype for both bands by creating a WW’E’ style faked melodrama between them a la Blur / Oasis.
The first single, “An Honest Mistake,” starts off like a New Order dance track, think “Blue Monday,” before it gets into a moving falsetto chorus, hitting notes that Flowers can’t. The self-titled album is solid from start to finish, from the early U2 sounds of “No Brakes,” to the Human League or OMD-like sing-song of “Tyrant.” “Give In” again combines the delivery of a young Bono with the electronic sound of bands like the Thompson Twins or A Flock of Seagulls. But they also throw in that Franz Ferdinand party edge. The band claims to have been already nearly done with the album before they even heard FF or the Killers. I, for one, believe them, if only for the fact that I think they would have forcibly tried to distance it from those bands. With the glut of 80’s homage bands out there, there was bound to be some overlap. Just throw back your memory, if you’re old enough, to the punk revolution of `76-’77, when most people thought that genre all sounded the same, and punk band after punk band came out of the woodwork.
I listened to this album without looking at the song titles for a while. I thought that the seventh track sounded like a fun `tongue-in-cheek’ version of a public service announcement with its lyrics of “Stop, drop and roll / You’re on fire.” Of course, the song is called “Public Service Announcement.” But the English major in me cringed with the lines “You put the broke in broken hearted / You put the art in retarded.” The album then goes into two songs from their previous Unconditional EP, “Out of Line” and “Unconditional,” before going into “The Ring Song,,” one of the gems of this release. As I stated, the album as a whole is stronger than most out there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not any Bloc Party, but it’s pretty damn good. The first half of the album is a little better than the latter half and its songs will get more attention, but don’t discount the Bravery’s staying power. Plus, people keep missing the obvious U2 influence that is what seems to make this band a little easier to swallow than its glitzier peers.
Some may slag the Bravery for their varied looks. As stated earlier, Sam Endicott dresses like my seventh grade fantasies of cool, a post punk hipster with chiseled good looks, while others in the band look like they could moonlight for the Verve (keyboardist John Conway), the Ramones (drummer Anthony Burulcich), Radiohead (guitarist Michael Zakarin), or Duran Duran (bassist Mike H.). Frankly, those slaggers need to get over the fact that, like Interpol before them, if the music can back it up, they can wear whatever the hell they want. I simply wish I could pull off just one of those looks. Sigh.