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Brakes: Touchdown

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Brakes

Touchdown

Rating: 3.5

Label: Fat Cat Records

On their third album, Brighton-based band Brakes (or possibly BrakesBrakesBrakes, depending on where you live and legal name wrangles) sound flippant even when they are at their most sincere. Touchdown is a collection of pop songs that don’t sound so much tossed off as the work of randomness colliding with a deep desire to be poetic. Mostly it works; perhaps I’m just reading into the press release statement that the lyrics of lead off track “Two Shocks” are the result of Sudafed-inspired gibberish.

I often wonder at the choice of a first single from a new release; sometimes it seems to be an indicator of the general mood and tone of the album, while other times it just seems like someone said “that’s the loudest one, put that out there.” Brakes’ first single, “Hey Hey,” is probably the album’s weakest track, with Eamon Hamilton (late of British Sea Power) sounding snotty through incoherent walls of fuzzy guitars. It’s not bad. It’s worse than that: it’s inconsequential. What’s curious is the solid quality of nearly every other track. The following single “Don’t Take Me To Space (Man)” rides a tremendously catchy bassline and lyrics like “I don’t care that this world is Masonic/ I got a true love keeping me on it,” while the mid-album one-two punch of “Worry About It Later” and “Crush On You” are fantastic. The former resembles previous tour mates Belle & Sebastian at their jauntiest, all acoustic guitars and breakneck vocal delivery. The latter opens with a simple guitar progression and the repeated insistence “Ooh, I’ve got a crush on you” to progressively greater (and louder) effect as the rest of the lyrics get weirder.

There are a few sour notes, to be sure; reincarnation bitching song “Eternal Return” lifts a little bit too much of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” for comfort, and it’s a good thing that undistinguished stomper “Red Rag” is the shortest track at under two minutes. But mostly, it’s a fun album; even penultimate track “Why Tell The Truth (When It’s Easier To Lie)” is almost a barroom sing-along, despite its opening of “I’m gonna tell you why it is/ That I drink my days away/ It’s ’cause the beer helps the cigarettes go down.” The longest and most somber track, the closing “Leaving England” (stated to be about leaving England, who knew) is both sweet and heartfelt. The melody is simple – the piano is understated – and its sentiment of “Brother, I’m leaving England/ To see what I can find” is both wrenching and hopeful. It’s everything you could want in an album closer, and largely Touchdown is what you want in an album by funny young Englishmen.

by Nathan Kamal

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