Several months after my taste in music shifted from predominantly pop-rock to alt-indie-rock, the Bravery hit the scene with their self-titled debut.
Personally, it's all about the music for me. I don't care if the lead singer is hott, I don't care if the video looks okay (I haven't seen a music video in ages), I don't care about lyrics or liner notes (although I am known to judge everything by its cover, so good cover art is a must)... All I care about is the sound--the idea of actually engaging with a song on such a level that my subconscious self decides to tap a finger along with the beat or my head starts to bop around even when I know I'm supposed to be sitting still.
To me, it doesn't matter if the Bravery used to be a ska band. It doesn't matter if the Killers have declared them some sort of non-artists, just riding the Killers' coattails. Nothing but the sound matters to me. And if the Killers were writing all the synth-rock songs the world has ever known, then I'd be writing a rave review of their CD too.
So back to the sound.
I picked the CD up from the iTMS because Trent recommended it on his blog. After hearing the 30 second clip of "An Honest Mistake," I knew he was on to something. The Bravery do sound like the Killers: a drum, a bass, a guitar, a synth, and a whiny lead singer.
My rating systems on CDs has always been that if I can listen to more than one song, the purchase was a success. If I can listen to all songs, it's one of my favorite CDs for life.
The Bravery falls squarely in the middle of these two extremes: there are only two songs on my shit list ("Give In" and "Public Service Announcement"), and probably only because the sound wasn't catchy enough for me (or maybe it was somehow too catchy). For whatever reason, I'm not going to listen to them again.
On the plus side, I really like the arrangements on the rest of the album. AJ has expressed that synth-rock songs all sound the same, and he can't listen to them if he can't distinguish one from the next. While I tend to agree on some obvious levels (how can you expect every song to sound different when it's the same people singing them), and reviews I've read seem to point in that direction, I feel that after a second listen, each song evolves to form its own imprint. I listened to a sample from each song (of the remaining songs I am willing to listen to) and was able to distinguish one from the other, although I found it very curious that the tempo is very similar in most of the tracks.
There are, of course, plenty of musical arrangements on this album that make it top priority in my iPod. The refrain on "An Honest Mistake" is so undeniably catchy and upbeat, with its guitar solo (actually during the refrain) and intertwining of guitar, synth, and vocals. "Swollen Summer" offers up a shrieking guitar and a fantastic vocal arrangement that actually takes you to the beach (it's like the Beach Boys stepped into 2005). A favorite of mine is "Out of Line," where the synthesizer is working overtime, and in their favor. Where the "Rites of Spring" wraps up the album, it certainly doesn't have the feel of the last song--the kind where everything slows down, the lyrics are mellow and light, and drones on for minutes with sound effect like chirping birds or running water or something. No. Although "Rites" may be the emotionally charged song on the album, and absolutely no one can resist the "Ooh ooooh ooh, ooh ooooh ooh" breakdown, it's best to just set the CD player to "repeat" because the disk doesn't sound like it's over here. And isn't it the mark of something good when you can't get enough of it?
I saw the video for "Unconditional" on iTMS last night and really enjoyed it. I feel that if I were a music video director, I would have a hard time creating an "introduction" video--the first one a band puts out. But kudos to whoever did this one (you can check it out under the "music" section of the Bravery's website). I am pretty sure that this is actually their second single. While I was at their website, I decided to check out the video for "An Honest Mistake" and boy was that shit. I do love, however, that at the end of the video the flaming arrow misses the target by like three feet. I had a brief flashback to the time I tried to play darts.