Forget London (and the ‘New Cross Scene’), New York is so last week, and Manchester is just passé. The place to be, the new epicentre of challenging indie music is Brighton. Yes, Brighton, the south coast British city famous for its pier, its deck chairs and a reputation as the gay capital of the UK. If you need examples of the current crop of talent, you must look no further than the majesty of British Sea Power, the promise of The Tenderfoot, the established The Electric Soft Parade and the lively glory of future stars, The Pipettes.
Brakes are another band that can now be added to that list, although they are in fact an amalgamation of the first three of those bands. Eamon from the Sea Power on vocals, the Soft Parade’s Tom and Alex on guitar and drums respectively and Marc from The Tenderfoot on bass, make up what could be regarded as the first indie super-group. Kind of like the indie Velvet Revolver, but with shorter hair, less leather and more duffel coats, that kind of thing.
Together, Brakes have recorded a debut album that is weird and wonderful in roughly equal measure. Sixteen tracks skip by in less than half an hour with some lasting only a matter of seconds. This is perhaps the most bizarre album I’ve listened to this year, but on repeated listens, it reveals itself as fresh, different, and really rather charming.
So, to begin with the weird: the first six tracks pass by pretty uneventfully, but by the time you reach Cheney, you’re in for a few surprises. Cheney itself lasts just eight second and consists of the, um, profound but understandable sentiment: “Cheney, Cheney, Cheney / Stop being such a dick!”, and that’s it! Pick Up The Phone is 30 seconds long and Comma Comma Comma Full Stop takes the record at four seconds – the lyrics also serving as the title. Hi How Are You angrily encapsulates the annoyance of inane gig conversation: “Won’t you shut the fuck up / I’m just trying to watch the band”, in a little under half a minute. How odd.
These random little bouts of schizophrenia, where Brakes seem to completely lose the plot actually serve as entertaining commercial breaks between the main show, which is an irresistibly quaint affair. NY Pie and Jackson (featuring The Duke Spirit‘s Liela Moss) are deliciously countrified jangles, You’ll Always have a Place To Stay is a heartfelt slow jam and first single All Night Disco Party is a raucous anthem. You’re So Pretty is the highlight though, a thoughtful, airy tune overlaid with Eamon’s voice (sometimes sharp and discordant) softer than usual – not unlike Billy Corgan‘s gentler moments.
So all in all, a truly bizarre album, which doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t any good – because it is. It certainly took a few listens to get to grips with, but I can now safely say that if quirky, highly original indie is your bag, then Give Blood is an album you need.