Release Date: Jul 8, 2014
Record label: Top Shelf Records
Genre(s): Emo, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Hardcore, Indie Rock
Tales of a full-fledged emo revival have been comically misreported. The “E” word, however reviled, did of course have its progenitors, and Chicago punks Braid likely embodied that awkward middle-ground of simply being four guys with ambitiously under-distorted guitars and fantastically atonal, emotional vocals. Call them whatever you want, but their watershed 1998 full-length, Frame and Canvas, sounds just as fresh today as it did when they released it.
Recently, I was part of an interesting discussion that tagged bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Braid, among others, as throwaway bands —— meant for a certain time and place —— which isn't "now." In the truest sense of the word "debate," many of the personnel involved had a mutual musical respect and high admiration for the bands but still touted them as something arcane; a souvenir if you will. Now, I'll jump to making the point that No Coast isn't a typical Braid record. It mashes gears in a new, more contemporary direction at times, and as light as it is in going down this road, it's a pleasure to say that there are still enough throwbacks to remember their worth in the '90s.
The first Braid album in 16 years ends with a song called “This Is Not a Revolution” and man...it’s hard to resist tweaking its title to comment on its surrounding circumstances, i.e., “this is not a revival.” Or, in the case of Braid themselves, “this is not a reunion.” It’s been called one for understandable reasons. So many of their peers have gotten the band back together recently and the excitement of seeing American Football or Mineral for the first time since the late 1990s might lead you to overlook Braid having played Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2012 or a couple of gigs in 2004. Or maybe it’s just that their 2011 EP Closer to Closed is better off being forgotten.
Along with the Promise Ring, Cap'n Jazz, Christie Front Drive, and others, Braid were prominent in the crop of mid- to late-'90s Midwestern emo bands, blending angular guitar work and spirited rhythms with elements of strong, melodic pop. Like a lot of their peers, Braid burned brightly for a short time, touring constantly and breaking up in 1999 with just three albums under their belt. While No Coast is technically Braid's first full-length release in 16 years, following 1998's definitive Frame & Canvas album, in many ways the band never left.
Braid and other exuberant-yet-heartbroken bands that exploded out of the Warped Tour circuit in the late ’90s/early ’00s often struggled to keep up with the demand of an ever-shifting fan base. They can’t keep cranking out teenage angst once they’ve settled down with a family and mountains of cash (or, in some cases, mountains of determination to get that cash some other way) — not realistically, right? There’s only so long you can believe someone like Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba is that sad every day of his life. At some point, the bands have to realize that they have grown up, as have their fans, and there are new challenges in life.
Braid’s first album in sixteen years comes off the back of a nostalgia tour in which they played their cult classic Frame & Canvas in its entirety. Released towards the back-end of the mid-90s US emo golden age in 1998, it wouldn’t be right to single it out as an influential record per se; it isn’t even a particularly experimental record, but it’s definitely a fucking brilliant one, a touchstone for anyone playing emo since it came out. There are DIY emo scenes thriving across the world over the last few years, full of bands who’ve obviously cut their teeth on the likes of Cap’n Jazz, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Rites of Spring.
Present day. Fifteen year-old YOUNG COREY, fresh from the late ‘90s, walks in and takes a seat at the bar. The bartender gives 28-eight year-old OLDER COREY a look. The two Coreys size each other up. YOUNG COREY: You’ve gained weight. And why are you dressed like a banker? Are you a banker now ….
Seminal '90s Midwest Emo veterans Braid return with the follow-up to 1998's acclaimed album, Frame & Canvas. Though strong in sound and true to their style and form, new album No Coast falls flat on the ears of long time fans. The Illinois quartet continue to play with jagged time signatures and a strong balance between vocals and rhythm section. However, the raw, post-hardcore-tinged edge of 2000's Movie Music, and the urgency in Chris Broach's vocals in pivotal songs like "The New Nathan Detroits," has faded.Double guitar and back-and-forth vocals between Broach and Bob Nanna have been a staple in Braid's work.
For Champaign-Urbana’s Braid, the hardest part of breaking up was actually staying apart. During its initial six-year run that ended in 1999 (following the release of the masterful Frame & Canvas a year earlier) the band dropped a new single or split every few months, making it one of most prolific bands of emo’s second wave. It would also be one of the first of that scene to reunite, mending fences for a brief victory lap in 2004, a venture that would prove to be a holdover until its second, more permanent reunion in 2011, when it returned as a recording act with the four-song Closer To Closed EP.
There's no more glaring way to put the "Midwest" in "Midwest emo" than to title an album that claims coastal neutrality. Along with Cap'n Jazz and the Promise Ring, Braid helped cultivate the uncorked, spastically energetic 1990s emo strain that's now suddenly one of the most blogworthy around, resulting in thinkpieces and debates and generally extensive coverage over the last year from practically everyone. However, No Coast, Braid's first proper full-length in 16 years, seems to largely ignore both the stuttered, experimental tendencies they first adopted from early post-hardcore and the hallmarks current emo revival bands would borrow heavily from in favor of its own voice.
Aside from a reunion EP in 2011, it’s been 16 years since Braid, the influential Illinois emo outfit, released their last record, “Frame and Canvas.” While they’ve never technically broken up, their reemergence on the Boston-based Topshelf Records makes perfect sense. The label has since become the de facto home of a generation of bands for whom Bob Nanna and company’s keenly brayed pining, intricately woven guitars, and clamorously tuneful songs are a touchstone. “I want my bucket of tricks back,” Nanna and Chris Broach sing on the nimble “Damages!,” one of the album’s many lurching, shouty pop-punk numbers.
There’s been a massive influx of indie-rock/emo/post-hardcore reunions of late. Maybe some of these loose-fitting, wide-netted genres have just come of age for such things, but it’s been largely a more-miss-than-hit affair. Last year, My Bloody Valentine and Daft Punk struck back after long hiatuses to nearly universal acclaim, but we’ve seen plenty of more divisive “reunion” efforts from acts like The Pixies, Iggy and The Stooges, The Get Up Kids and plenty more (not to particularly knock any of those albums—the point being that their juries were more split).