Saturday, October 29, 2005

brakes live in brighton

Brakes, the band who bring together members of Brighton's Tenderfoot, Electric Soft Parade and British Sea Power, played one of the best live sets I've seen all year at the Concorde 2 earlier this week.

They were preceded by the odd and interesting Chris TT, who we unfortunately only caught a song and a half of, and only the half close enough to the stage to hear his witty, satirical lyrics breaking through a pleasent if not groundbreaking Badly Drawn Boy / Elvis Costello-esque stew. The most memorable lyric being "No-one's got any good red songs anymore / and Billy Bragg has gone fishing in his 4x4". You suspect that Chris TT occasionally ends up rubbing people up the wrong way with his sarcasm, but on the evidence of a song and a half he might be worth looking into a little further.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Brakes; I'd heard roughly half their debut album and was impressed by bits and unsure about others. At times they seemed to veer slightly too far to the 'in-joke' category of indie rock. And yet they were really fine live, much better than I anticipated.

Like !!!, who played a riotous set at the Concorde a few months ago, or Maximo Park, who played a stunning, rousing version of 'Apply Some Pressure' on TOTP last week, Brakes are overflowing with enjoyment with their lot. Clearly pleased to be back in Brighton, they seemed instantly relaxed, inviting friends out on stage, tearing through the shorter numbers a couple of times, throwing in a couple of great cover versions, mucking about between songs and playing half a dozen numbers which clocked in at under two minutes. Several were under a minute.

One, the delightful 'Cheney' was under 8 seconds long. Lyrics in full: "Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney. Don't be such a dick!".

There aren't all that many bands who can get away with playing a Jesus and Mary Chain song (albeit a lesser JAMC song - in this instance the still pretty lovely 'Sometimes Always') and trump it with several brighter, better songs. Brakes managed by balancing the short, punky tracks with surprising gorgeous, graceful - if no less enthusiastic - numbers, brimming with memorable, chugging guitar lines, exciting breaks and even melancholy country rock melodies. I was briefly transported to a pre-britpop time where British bands as often as not took their lead from American indie rock rather than home-grown heroes. There comes a time when even I tire of hearing another guitar record with a New Order bassline.

That said, when they played 'All Night Disco Party', which I hadn't heard before, me and Vic swiftly concluded it was another cover. "That's why it's so much better than the rest of the set". But it turns out we were wrong and it's their own song. It is indeed one of their best, recalling the early 80s punk-funk sound recently recycled by the likes of Radio 4, or late Graham Coxon era Blur when Graham would wilfully destroy live renditions of 'Girls and Boys' with blasts of feedback.

When they played their new single, Pixies/Roxy Music hybrid 'Ring a Ding Ding', Vic turned round and said 'this is such a joyful song'.

Go and see Brakes if you can; they're excellent - spirited, imaginitive and joyful.


Blogger Ben said...

Not heard Brakes let alone seen them live. When I heard mention of The Electric Soft Parade I feared the worst, but your comments about them taking their cue from American indie has aroused my interest.

5:03 pm  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Cast your Electric Soft Parade related fears aside. Brakes are much better. The only good thing about ESP was their bassist - and he's in my band now! ha ha ha.

I'm still unconvinced about the record, but they were ace live.

8:49 pm  

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