Live in a Dive

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Bracket has long enthralled the punk scene with its skewered view of the world and unconventional take on punk. After a string of releases, the quartet now delivers up Live in a Dive, which works equally well as a best-of (so far) set. Drawing songs off Bracket's albums, EPs, and even a pair from compilations, the band aims to please. And the crowd at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill, back in the summer of 1999, were definitely appreciative. Still, Marty Gregori is nervous, listeners know, because he keeps saying so. It might just be the pressure of the live recording, but judging by the group's repertoire, there's more to it than that. From the joyous jitters of "Trailer Park," which slips into pure paranoia, to finding the world so overwhelming he asks it to shut up on "Hearing Aid," Bracket is a basket of neuroses brought to song. Unable to let go, the singer is "Happy to Be Sad," withdrawing into the world of a "Hermit." It may sound like an emotional maelstrom, but the band isn't the attention-seeking "Circus Act" that the song titles and lyrics may suggest. Musically, Bracket creates a close thicket of sound that runs the gamut from power ballads through infectious punk, and pushes the envelope into the realm of hard rock (shades of the band's youthful infatuation with AC/DC). Bracket often combines all three styles in one song, skidding between tempo changes and alterations of mood. Onstage, this quirkiness is even more to the fore, but years on the road have polished the band's sound to a sleek eccentricity that is its major draw. Live in a Dive captures the emotional ups and down, the fun and the fury, the thunder and the fragility, the vigor and vulnerability, and sends them straight out of your speakers. And if that's not enough enticement, the enhanced CD offers up interviews and videos, while the booklet is actually a cool comic book. Dive straight in.

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