A jaunty harmonica is the first thing you hear on Be Brave, suggesting that not much has changed in the Strange Boys’ world, and not much needs to. The Austin, TX band still serves up plenty of prime down-home swagger and twang on their second album, especially on irresistible rockers like “Night Might.” However, the Strange Boys get a little moodier and more expansive on these songs, enlisting friends like Mika Miko’s Jenna Thornhill and Darker My Love’s Tim Presley to help them go deeper into the swampy grooves that popped up from time to time on Strange Boys and Girls Club. “Dare I Say” dabbles in folk-rock with acoustic guitars and hand drums, “Fridays in Paris” reveals the band’s roots rock underpinnings, and though “A Walk on the Bleach” eventually turns into a rave-up, its drunken philosophizing at the start recalls the Walkmen as much as it does Bob Dylan. And though songs like “Between Us” show that ‘60s British blues and psych-rock are still strong influences on the Strange Boys’ music, their Lone Star heritage peeks out too, with shades of Doug Sahm and the 13th Floor Elevators popping up on the old-school vibe of “Be Brave.” At times, the Strange Boys’ exploration of their slower, thoughtful side gets a bit meandering, as on “Da Da” and “The Unsent Letter,” but more often than not, it’s refreshing to hear them open up their nostalgic melodies and make them less naïve; on “Laugh at Sex, Not Her,” singer Ryan Sambol muses about his friends having sex in the room next to him, “they love each other and for some reason that pleases me” over a rumbling groove. With songs like “All You Can Hide Inside” revealing a flair for rough-around-the-edges ballads, Be Brave shows that the Strange Boys are growing -- not in a self-consciously “mature” way, but enough to make them more than just purveyors of raffish garage rock.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares