Bruise are British duo Isobel Morris and Jim Kimberley. There’s an obvious Eurythmics parallel to be drawn with a charismatic woman up front and a speccy bloke on technical duties. However, main vocalist Morris lacks Annie Lennox’s arresting, octave straddling talent and her flat delivery hampers many of the tracks on this, their debut album.
Morris’s voice and what you make of it will be the deciding factor over whether you enjoy this release. There’s an odd quavery quality to it, as if she seems to be striving unsuccessfully to sound like Beth Gibbons of Portishead, but her voice is not nearly unworldly enough to pull this off. Having said that, on B’s opening track Excuse Me she actually sounds a hell of lot like Alanis Morissette with a distinctly English twang, and as a result this is probably the albums most successful song, the spiky semi-spoken style showcasing Morris’s lyrics to best effect.
After such a snappy opening, second track Pariah is a let down. Slow paced and turgid, drained of the opener’s sparkle and snap. As the album progresses Bruise seems to borrow the styles of a number of female-fronted bands and female solo artists. One minute they’re sounding a bit Beth Orton, the next a bit like Portishead. There’s some smart lyrics and interesting melodies in evidence here but you do wish they’d settle on their own style instead of aping their influences quite so overtly.
Inch Me In is a dark, smart pop track with a cool mid-song guitar break and menacing lyrics, “the longer you stay there, the less is left of you.” The Game is definitely going for an early Throwing Muses vibe, brittle and raw but without the necessary edge. Wanting gets off to a great start with a superbly sonic intro but the pace slows once more when Morris starts singing. Despite this the lyrics are undeniably inventive and amusing. “You smell like my grandpa. I like it that way,” she declares at one point. There’s more lyrical invention on Silvertown, the bittersweet, mellow stream-of-consciousness musings bizarrely bringing to mind Jack Johnson of all people. “Silvertown,” concludes Morris after digressing via mobile phones and Eastenders, “it glistens, it tarnishes too.”
There’s some bright stuff on B but too much of it sounds like something you’ve heard before, somewhere else. The band have done themselves a disservice in this respect as they’ve got it in them to produce some memorable music. Morris needs to learn to work within her vocal limitations, to make her voice work for her, to sculpt her songs to suit it. When she does this, on Inch Me In, the music stands up to scrutiny but too often Bruise sound like a band trying – and failing – to emulate someone else.