Review Summary: With a slightly more abrasive re-working of the 90s math/emo sound, Bridge and Tunnel show promise on their debut full-length.
A couple of months ago, I found myself flicking through a magazine, and happened upon an article that bemoaned the lack of passion in a lot of today's popular music. I don't want to turn this into a finger-pointing contest, but suffice to say the piece blasted several over-hyped buzz bands whose performances and recordings they felt lacked a certain passion. I have to say I found myself largely in agreement, having recently watched live footage from several UK festivals only to be faced with droves of identikit indie bands playing, frankly, as if they couldn't give a shit
. With that in mind, it's heartwarming to hear a band like Bridge and Tunnel
who, right from the opening seconds of "Wartime Souvenirs," sound like a band whose sole intention is to be the andidote to that very sense of indifference.
B&T tread a similar musical ground to the likes of Braid
and American Football
, combining melodic indie with emotional punk rock, albeit taking a rather more abrasive route for the most part. Guitarist/vocalist Jeff possesses a strong voice, reminiscent of the former's Bob Nanna both in the conviction with which he sings, as well as his tendency towards more unusual vocal patterns. The band's penchant for interweaving melodic guitar parts and tendency towards mathy interludes also echoes the work of those aforementioned 90s emo pioneers, however the addition of female vocals courtesy of guitarist Rachel (and occasionally also from bassist Tia), gives East/West
a markedly more distinct feel, with the ladies sometimes taking the lead, other times harmonizing with Jeff, and occasionally even overlapping an entirely different vocal line, resulting in a similar effect to that created by the guitars. The drumming comes courtesy of ex-Latterman sticksman Pat Schramm, and while B&T share much of the heart-on-sleeve passion of his former band, he's adapted his previously up-tempo drumming style admirably to fit the more varied and intricate sounds displayed here.
It must be said however, that East/West
is something of a grower; from the start, it's easy to appreciate the passion and melodic nous that the band show throughout, but after the first few listens, it was only the more straightforward tracks, like the catchy "Night Owls" which really stood out. The reverb-heavy production, while giving the record a nice live feel and an airy, spacious atmosphere (particularly to the vocals; it genuinely seems like they're shouting from the rooftops at times), does little for the clarity of the sound; the band's many-layered approach often becomes a little overwhelming, and their rather complex approach to song structures doesn't help matters. But persevere, and you're rewarded with a whole range of treats in the likes of the urgent "Call to the Comptroller's Office," the spidery guitar wizardry of "Rubrics," the slow-burning "Town Hall Gathering" and the twisting, turning behemoth that is "Grace for These Wayward Hearts." The closing track "As Close as I Can" is also pretty fuc
king spectacular, and a fitting end to the album.
is not a record that you can throw on in the background, but if you can forgive the band the occasional moment of unfocused songwriting and make the effort to dig deep into their serene-yet-chaotic sound, you'll find that these aren't songs you'll be humming to yourself - these are songs you'll want to scream along to from the top of mountains. Bridge and Tunnel are a band whose fierce passion and creativity is self-evident, and in East/West
, they've made an album which reflects those qualities. For that, they should be praised.