Brakes

Beatific Visions [UK]

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There's a good chance you may be caught off guard by Eamon Hamilton's mildly absurd sounding vocals on The Beatific Visions. His voice kind of resembles Frank Black with a slurred Scottish accent. It's pretty darn adorable in a Shrek sort of way. It's also an intriguing culture clash, since the lad is from the U.K. and singing Americana-tinged garage rock, but this is just one of the many enigmas of Brakesbrakesbrakes -- a band that changed their name from the Brakes (to avoid confusion with a band of the same name) and still commonly refer to themselves as Brakes for short. The tunes recall the finer qualities of classic '80s alt rock bands the La's and the Lemonheads as they flash glimpses of old classics like the Ramones, Neil Young, and "On Your Side" even recalls the Byrds' "Wasn't Born to Follow." Brakesbrakesbrakes also manage to effortlessly craft songs in clashing country-rock and punk genres, but their ability to make these varying styles sound like their own is even more impressive. It's similar to when a popular vocalist, say Neil Diamond, makes an album of random cover songs, but his vocal tonalities are so Neil Diamond that it still feels like a cohesive listening experience. Similarly, Hamilton blankets a wide variety of styles with his uniqueness (even though he has more in common with Shane MacGowan than Diamond). All this is to say The Beatific Visions sounds like a pretty congruent, straightforward indie rock album, but it covers a lot more ground than just rock. The lyrics are ironic and often doused with apocalyptic paranoia, while simultaneously remaining upbeat and clouded in enough metaphor that they don't seem overtly political. A song that could be titled after a drink, "Margarita" addresses the media using fear as a method to control society, while a song that sounds written by the Clash with a chorus that yells "who won the war, what the hell was it for?" is a song about a porcupine fighting a pineapple. So while this disc is more serious than their debut, it still has a definite hard-to-miss underlying whimsy. With subtly comical references to marijuana and broken cell phones balanced alongside literary references and political satire, the content is highly entertaining -- and it's tremendously catchy, to the point of sounding classic first time around. [A U.K. version of the CD was also released.]

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