Live Music + Gig Reviews

Brakes @ Mean Fiddler, London

25 April 2006



The supergroup; an interesting phenomenon unique to the music industry. Take two (or more) previously successful groups, strip away the less gifted members and combine the talent into one new dream band, capable of things normal groups can only dream about. It should be a recipe for success. It’s always easy to market. And it keeps the creative ones, who may have become a little bored of their old normal group, full of fresh and exciting ideas.

It doesn’t always work of course (the abortive Zwan for some reason keeps popping into my mind). Combining huge talents often means combining huge egos, and the results can be anything but beautiful music. But there’s certainly scope for good things to happen and for details, look no further than Brakes: a mish-mash of talent from British Sea Power (Eamonn Hamilton) and The Electric Soft Parade (Tom and Alex White), with The Tenderfoot‘s Marc Beatty thrown in for good measure.

Off the back of a lengthy three month tour, they crowded into Mean Fiddler on Tuesday with a bunch of friends, determined to have a cracking time if it killed them; and have a cracking time they did.

Actress Hands were first up, given the usual thankless task of warming up a crowd which was still in the pub. Nevertheless, they turned in an interesting set, vibrant harmony led rock mixing in with Matt Eaton’s deadpan comic interludes: “up in Stroud last week – big adder problem. Any problem with adders in Charing Cross Road?” Well, maybe you had to be there.

The Glaswegian based 1990s raised things up a notch, reeling out a thumping list of catchy vocal driven tracks. “Cult Status” and “You’re Supposed to Be…” in particular stood out, all catchy guitar riffs and strutting: presumably we’ll be seeing a lot of more of them.

But it was Brakes that everyone was waiting for, and, coming on to a rapturous reception, they began churning out the bizarre and brilliant crunching rock for which they’re known. Fantastic single tracks like All Night Disco Party were interspersed with superb minute long vignettes about going to gigs, or ten second gripes about Dick Cheney.

As things went on Hamilton’s voice got louder, the crowd got sweatier and the music just got better. By the time they ran out of songs the metal rig suspending the lights above us was vibrating alarmingly, but no-one seemed interested in backing off – risking death to watch Brakes play, is there more of an endorsement? I can’t think of one.

The thing about supergroups is that the less talented are forced out to pasture, mournfully looking for a side-project of their own to entertain them, hoping that the whole super thing doesn’t work out and their former partners will come crawling back.

On this evidence though, those left over from ESP and BSP may as well think about forming their own (sub?) group: because it looks like Brakes are here to stay. Great stuff.

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More on Brakes
Brakes – Rock Is Dodelijk
Brakes – Touchdown
Brakes @ Tommy’s Bar, Cardiff
Brakes – The Beatific Visions
Brakes @ Mean Fiddler, London