[9 January 2008]
It could be suggested that the musical equivalent of the classic admonition never to judge a book by its cover is to never judge a band’s music by the band’s silly name. Rock and roll’s history is full of seriously talented bands with less-than-serious-sounding names. Many a review of Baltimore’s Myracle Brah has spent time dissecting the band’s moniker; surely, by this, their seventh album frontman Andy Bopp and the rest of the band would prefer we all grow up a bit, stifle our snickers, and focus on their music.
It’s certainly music worth focusing on. On Can You Hear the Myracle Brah? , the group turns out a collection of fifteen highly engaging power pop songs. From jangly guitar licks to big hooks, forward moving tempos to short but sweet structures, each element of the band’s sound is pitch perfect in recalling the glory of the types of artists listed by the band’s label as influences: The Byrds, Badfinger, and The Raspberries.
The album starts in brilliant fashion with the one-two punch of “No More Words” and “First Kiss.” The former features a timeless sounding vocal from Bopp set against the tuneful passages he plays on guitar; the latter is buoyed by steady, effervescent rhythms being played by each instrument while Bopp apologizes to someone for wasting her first kiss.
As the record progresses, other definite highlights emerge. “Angeleen” gives Bopp a chance to walk a mile in McCartney’s shoes; his vocal turn and melodic sensibilities here are reminiscent of the songwriter’s post-Beatles work. “Run to the Voices” is marked by a chord progression that, though fairly simple, nicely compliments Bopp’s melody while “A Traveling Song” is a great, straight-ahead rocker driven by the insistent drumming of Greg Schroeder. Arguably the album’s highlight, “Hurry Now” takes its shape and being from a soulful Motown piano groove and a sweetly cooed chorus.
At times, the almost nostalgic feel of Bopp’s songs is refreshing; in an era of fairly homogenous pop stars, it’s uplifting to be reminded why rock and roll was such a great thing in the first place. Occasionally, however, the looking back causes a bit of a crick in the neck and a slip up in the songwriting. “The Night Belongs to You” is part vintage melodic rock, part arena rock ballad with the second facet unfortunately tarnishing the potential shine of the first. “You’re Full of Strangers” is a passable attempt at a ‘70s rocker with one foot in the psychedelic and the other moving towards some sort of ballsy blues romp; the track doesn’t seem to work on either level. “Best Friend” also sounds a bit like a retread and doesn’t afford Bopp the chance to express the originality that, at times, he infuses some of this classic-sounding material with. Another track, “Big Kids Wanna Rock” is frustratingly marred by inconsistency. The song starts with blistering guitars, direct drums and a soulful verse vocal only to be drug down by a pedestrian hook and some less than stellar harmonies later in the track.
Ultimately, Can You Hear the Myracle Brah? is a respectable effort, a fundamentally sound record that is regrettably hindered by an occasional bout with mediocrity. A little more editing would have only enhanced the purist, retro-rock vibe that Bopp and company try to achieve. Myracle Brah, at its best, is a combination of classic rock ideals and fresh musical energy; fortunately, the band is at its best for at least the majority of the project.