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Brakes: Give Blood

Daniel Rivera

Punk goes country when this British dream team tackles their first LP with WANTON ABANDON.


Give Blood

Label: Rough Trade
US Release Date: 2005-09-13
UK Release Date: 2005-07-04
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When you think about it, one of the most important elements of any punk band is simplicity. When a punk band spends too much time composing intricate guitar riffs and cleverly timed drumming, they may succeed to impress on a technical level but ultimately defeat their entire purpose of existence... to a certain extent, anyway. You have to admit, despite some of its more apparent iconoclastic tendencies, on a purely sonic level, your daddy's punk rock was pretty tame. The odd thing is that, for the most part, the less effort there is, the more effective the music. What better way to instill ambivalence than to have yourself soaked in it?

New British hopefuls simply known as Brakes (made up of members of Electric Soft Parade, the Tenderfoot, and British Sea Power) do not know the meaning of the word indulgence. Hurtling through sixteen tracks in just barely double the time, Give Blood is a widely benign sampling of country influenced post punk that isn't so much a shock to the senses, as it is a collection of momentary glimpses of sensory bliss. Its flashes are few and far between, but the overall spirit is a refreshing rehash of the "old school" punk mentality comprised mostly of jaded snobbery and slurred curses. I would be lax, though, to not point out that the album's influences go on, virtually, for miles. So we are hardly dealing with a one trick pony here.

Front man, Eamon Hamilton (British Sea Power) usually hits just the right stride, delivering the perfect amount of tongue-in-cheek lyrical content without forgetting to incorporate the hook-driven indie pop element that keeps you coming back for more. But, again, nothing too gaudy or well polished. The very nature of the group is what makes Brakes so oddly charming in their deliberate avoidance of tact. Pleading with the Vice President to stop being such a "dick" on the 10-second "Cheney" is a about as deft a sociopolitical message as you're going get out of these gentleman. And, oddly enough, it all fits rather perfectly... in a sense. Their brazenly simplistic proclivities make Brakes awkwardly brilliant in their own right.

The album's flow is like that of a nice helping of Jack and water. It goes down easy, but not without that kick you so desperately need to get you through the night. If not for it's aftertaste of bitter sting, you might be inclined to forget it; but the damage is done rather quickly, as it only aids in impairing your already stilted judgment, increasing the chances of you doing what your friends so eloquently refer to as "hogging." Before you know it, you're passed out in the parking lot with vomit on you sweater, asphalt marks on your face, and a tune you can't seem to get the fuck out of your head. Yeah, it's like that.

With Brakes, what you see is what you get. Sure, that's a lazy and incredibly clichéd statement -- but part of the point of Give Blood is to impart that sense of apathetic satisfaction that can't really be fully described simply by using words. Its simplicity makes it punk rock by expression, not attitude alone. Brakes are clearly on a higher level of self-effacing rhetoric than maybe even they had planned. Humorous without being ridiculous, fun without being jubilant; Give Blood is a fundamental fluke of focus and wisdom.


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