Live Music + Gig Reviews

Brother @ Heaven, London

23 May 2011

Brother play music they call “Gritpop”, or the rougher side of Britpop. The name sounds as though it could be a parody but it’s actually homage as the band resemble a bastard child of early Blur and Oasis, exiled to Slough.

They’ve had loads of publicity which, apart from a few high-profile voices in the music media, has been mostly negative, labelling the band as mere throwbacks to the mid-’90s indie-rock period. Now, after supporting the likes of The Streets (and with Morrissey to come later in the summer), Brother have their first headline tour, plugging their modestly titled imminent debut album Famous First Words, produced by no less than Stephen Street for Geffen Records.

Their own support could not be more different musically. The Miami electro space/pop duo ANR are succeeded by Dog Is Dead, a five-piece multi-instrumental band from Nottingham, featured in the latest season of Skins. Barely out of their teens themselves, they’ve just released their second EP, Your Childhood, another slice of jazz-swing inflected, nu-folkish indie pop with African rhythms. For some strange reason they didn’t play new single River Jordan, but the chiming Glockenspiel Song especially captured their novel appeal.

‘Novel’ is not a word that can be used to describe Brother, but if they fail to show any spark of originality they do have some well-constructed songs with strong tunes. This is unredeemed lad rock straining for the anthemic, with choruses that would go down well on a football terrace – especially Loftus Road, judging by the QPR banner at the back of the stage. Lagers are tossed in the air as the four-piece (supplemented by a keyboard player and girl backing singer) come on to deliver a punchy 40-minute set covering the tracks from their new album.

They kick off with High Street Low Lives, a ballsy rocker with an unconvincing psychedelic bridging section, followed by Shoot Like Lightning a more dancey, Stones Roses-type number. Current single Still Here is an engagingly chirpy Parklife-era song, though Electric Daydream is a misguided attempt at Champagne Supernova. The catchy first single Darling Buds of May builds to a big chorus, while New Year’s Day features some suspiciously familiar chanted backing vocals.

Mockney front man Lee has a lot to say for himself. His cocky attitude and confrontational swagger is reminiscent of a pint-sized Liam. He certainly likes – nay, demands – a reaction from the audience, barking out orders for people to dance, sing along, clap, ignite their cigarette lighters, including “the boring people at the back”. His seemingly genuine conviction that the band are going to be massive because of the power of their music is comically naive in its in yer face ambition, with boasts like “Look how far we’ve come” and “Everyone’s going to know this song by the end of the year”.

Brother are of course nowhere near as good as their own ridiculous hype, but neither are they as bad as their less than fraternal critics make out. However, as their first two singles flopped, the quest for world domination seems to have stalled near the start of the campaign. The band’s beloved QPR may have won promotion to the Premiership but at the moment Brother are struggling way down the League.

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Brother @ Heaven, London