Release Date: Apr 21, 2009
Record label: Fat Cat
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
I have never toured Europe. In fact, I have never been to Europe, and I am a terrible musician, so it seems unlikely that I am right about this, but I will say it anyway: Brakesbrakesbrakes’ new record, Touchdown, sounds like a bunch of musicians touring Europe. It is pure energy, musicianship, and lyrical hilarity and quite simply is the best record yet to be released in 2009.
If the Brakes were the Pixies (a band that sounds very similar), Touchdown would be their Doolittle -- that is, a slightly more polished and accessible album than their last, showing the band tightening their reigns slightly and turning in some of their tightest, cleanest work to date. It's a genuine alt pop album, one that finds the former and current members of British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade, and the Tenderfoot more masterful than ever at churning out opaque, punchy melodies anchored by dry wit. College rock crossover potential seems evident, but, while Touchdown looks to appeal to a broader audience than its predecessors, that's not to say that things are overly toned down or have lost their edge.
In 2002, shortly after forming Brakes as a solo project, singer-songwriter Eamon Hamilton was recruited by another Brighton, UK, band, British Sea Power. Although his duties were predominantly as keyboardist, he was best known for contributing to the group's notoriously hyperactive live shows, during which he often ran wild-eyed into the audience, manically banging a gigantic drum and scaling the stage rafters alongside BSP guitarist Martin Noble. Given his engaging stage presence and appetite for writing swift, sharp songs that reel and rage like sonic blisters, it's not surprising that Hamilton was soon approached by three other staples of the Brighton rock scene: brothers Alex and Tom White of the Electric Soft Parade, and bass player Marc Beatty of the Tenderfoot.
Despite having the most unfortunate band name this side of !!!, Brakesbrakesbrakes (known as Brakes outside of America, and from hereafter in this review) have consistently proven themselves as perhaps the most rewarding band in Brit-pop’s current iteration. By refusing to become the umpteenth band trying to be the next U2 (or the next Oasis, or the next Libertines), Brakes are allowed to toss a lot of influences into the pot. They can sound like a country influenced bar band on one song, the only band that have ever claimed the Pixies as an influence that actually sound Pixies-esque on another and then sound like the Replacements playing the Ramones on another.