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Brightboy

Love For The Streets

(Helsinki Music Company; US: Available as import; UK: Available as import; Internet release date: 5 Jul 2006)

New Finnish rock band Brightboy have built up a few singles in their native country and, on their debut album, pull off a poppy brand of rock arrogance semi-successfully. The band’s music is mainstream radio fare, and belongs in between “When You Were Young” and “Chasing Cars” on whatever is Finland’s equivalent of Z100. And as you’d expect for a young, mainstream-courting rock band, there are a few highlights and a bunch of not-much-else in between.


The thing about Love For The Streets is that it’s just so conventional. The album kicks off with a series of upbeat songs that showcase the band’s sound without giving away their best material. They continue with a couple of slower numbers to showcase the band’s sensitive side. Then it’s back into the energetic stuff to close out the disc. Style-wise, Brightboy runs the gamut of recent dance-influenced rock bands. From the high, barreling synth chorus of Killers takeoff “Leave” to “Yeah Yeah No No”—you’d think “Whoo! Alright—Yeah . . . Uh Huh” from the name, but it’s more like lesser Boykillboy. And “Dead City Jam” recalls the National’s ska-fueled grooves.


The opening track, “Wear Out the Soles”, is the most straightforward song, as well as the song with the most debt to pay to the 80s. Synths coming out his ear, lead Antti Westman sings “I wear out the soles of my dancing shoes” in the chorus to a totally familiar (but still fun) chord progression. Westman’s voice is high, thin and a little sleazy. It has the Scandinavian squeak of Christian Hjelm from Figurines, but his outlook is more pop than indie.


At their worst, Brightboy fades to insignificance. “Dead City Jam” is a nothing song, relying on the beat to drive the song, in much the same was as the National. “My curfew” is an aborted attempt at sweetness: though it appropriately ratchets up the “soaring” factor for the chorus, the song is straight-ahead rock: verse-chorus-repeat (snore).


“Heart So Cold” is also a near-miss, part predictable and part undeniably pleasant. Oh yeah, as if you needed the reminder, there are bands making pop songs still. Not necessarily a bad thing: but the attempt to attain something like Snow Patrol’s “Run”—build-build-build-build—(cathartic) release—fails. The reason it fails, and one of the big misconceptions of the album, is Brightboy’s complacency: forgoing the bite of real synth-rock, they won’t be able to leave much of a mark. Later, when Westman sings “Honestly, this town is getting small for me”, it comes off as a little arrogant; but at least it’s a true feeling.


Well maybe it’s just a second-language thing, but “I will turn my soul into profit” has just the ring of truth. But hey, MTV Europe’s gotta run some local stuff, right? As the disc plays on your dislike fades, just because these are well-constructed and satisfying pop songs, at least on the surface. That’s enough, right?

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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