Review Summary: The musical equivalent of a used condom.
Second place has often been called just the first loser, and for New York City dance-rock band the Bravery, it’s been an apt description. Just another cynical band aping New Order when they wandered onto the scene in 2005 with “A Honest Mistake,” they were beaten to the dance-punk punch by the Killers and lost in the shuffle of a myriad of impersonators. Their sophomore effort barely registered a blip on the national radar, a victim of their own ability to translate their ear for a hit single over the course of a whole album. Stir The Blood, meanwhile, comes at an interesting juncture in the band’s life; singer/guitarist Sam Endicott seems to have found his calling as a pop writer, co-writing three Shakira songs and an unreleased track off the new Christina Aguilera CD. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know it from listening to Stir The Blood, a record that does little to advance the Bravery’s reputation past that of a middling rock band still coasting by on a tired sound.
It’s not that the Bravery don’t know how to write good songs. The hazy folk of “She’s So Bendable” reveals a pleasantly surprising side of the band, while tracks like “The Spectator” and opener “Adored” prove that the Bravery have refined their dance-floor rock shtick to a glossy sheen. Even a song as terribly titled and disturbing as “Hate***,” where singer/guitarist Sam Endicott desperately asks one to “love me mercilessly,” succeeds on raw sexual aggression and the band’s relentlessly driving pulse. And while Endicott continues to make his case as one of the genre’s worst lyricists on terrible metaphors like “Sugar Pill,” the song’s trippy Velvet Underground vibe and haunting atmosphere close the album out in fine fashion.
Ah, but what it takes to get there. The Bravery still have an almost compulsive urge to transform every other song into a vanilla synth-rock pastiche, a by-the-numbers creation that makes up in shiny guitars and cheesy ‘80s keyboards what it lacks in genuine substance. Tunes like “Song For Jacob” and uninspired first single “Slow Poison” seem like they could have been plucked off of any Bravery album and merely rearranged in a different key, songs that are remarkable only for their lack of anything resembling progress or growth. But even the best imitation synth-rock here, from “I Am Your Skin” to “Red Hands and White Knuckles,” is derailed by what should be their strongest asset. Listeners long ago decided whether or not they could tolerate Endicott’s uniquely whiny voice, an intriguing mix between a Brandon Flowers-esque croon and the kind of oscillating screech that stellastarr* singer Shawn Christensen is famous for. But despite Endicott’s admittedly one-dimensional range, it’s his moronic lyrics that truly magnify his weaknesses. The combination of Endicott’s overwrought vocals and lyrics like “I wanna feel everything you feel / I will be your covering” or “down I’m locked and loaded / you’re so milk and roses / and I am just a letdown of your hound” make Endicott come off as sort of a posturing creep.
Whether it’s Endicott’s tired, cliché-ridden lyrics or the recycled sounds the band routinely beats to death, Stir The Blood more often than not resembles the musical equivalent of a used condom, a slimy piece of work that left me wincing in disgust more often than not. When Endicott proclaims himself “a nerve ending without a brain” on “I Have Seen The Future,” it’s a fitting metaphor for the album as a whole. The Bravery have always been good to hit the dance-floor for a song or two, but it’s when they try to make it a long-term commitment that they reveal themselves to be an unhappily shallow ordeal.
Sorry but disagree big-time with your review. But perhaps I shouldn't be surprised from a quick look at your other reviews and the sort of thing garnering better marks!!
it would take too long to dismantle the kinds of statement in this review and that would be beyond the scope of a 'comment', in this section, but look, a few obvious points:
1) lyrics - Endicott has plenty of interesting lyrics, as ever, and by picking on a few more obvious ones that are blended in to the mix, in order to claim this is a weak point, you have totally lost your bearings in regard to the standard of lyrics by just about all groups. Look at the lyrics of those who the bravery are 'supposed to' fall short of - the killers and new order, both of who have been lambasted justifiably at points for markedly rubbish words. Endicott doesn't fall to those kind of lows and very often, while there is the odd more 'obvious' line occasionally in their songs, the lyrical drive is far more interesting and 'deep' than you'd probably expect in a glam-dance-punk-synth-rockabilly-sort-of band. It's a strength they've covered up by making themselves look debauched and, in interviews sometimes, even a bit dull.
2) re: the whole subject of 'recycled sounds', what band *doesn't* draw on 'influences' to create their own sound? The Bravery don't sound like anyone else that I can think of, while at the same time there might just be some generic-type reference points (80s synths, indie-ish 'dance music'). That's as it should be cos you won't find any band that doesn't have some nod or influence from somewhere. For godsbl--dingsake, all bands have this from the Stone Roses (60s psychedelia and jangly guitars) to the Pistols (guitar rocknroll anyone?! just look at the generic rock n roll backing on pretty Vacant, suitably modified by the guitar lines being amped up into a wall of sound version of it and the whole effect altered by having mr lydon's vox over the top).
3) the bravery will just have to take being hated by 'reviewers' like you in their stride!
Concerning their lyrics, william1, grab a lyrics sheet for the Bravery's first 2 albums and tell me how many times you count Endicott alluding to the generic 'fear' forced down our throats, or all the times he's been wrong and it's not his fault (I.E. An Honest Mistake), or the proverbial unnamed 'You' who seems to be constantly doing him dirt and he's 'not taking it any more'.
It's not so much that Endicott takes vapid, cliche themes and builds upon their already gregarious nature (he does) any worse or better than his peers. Where as his peers and influences at least have tried to vary things up a bit an expand as musicians. But, more so that he just writes boring lyrics, for boring songs, circling around the same general theme(s) and he's been doing it for 3 albums now.
william - while i respect your points about the lyrics and sounds, you really haven't given me examples of either. i looked at a fair number of lyrics for this album and was pretty much unimpressed with everything i read, with the exception of maybe "the spectator." i mean, have you listened to "Sugar Pill" or "Hatefuck" or "Slow Poison" or "I Am Your Skin" or practically any song? the songs that aren't terribly ill-advised are generic as all get out, as yeti pointed out
when it comes to the music, i'm not really sure how you can defend this. obviously bands draw influences from other bands, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. the problem here is that the Bravery have shown little to no growth since their first album, which was a dance-rock clone to begin with, even in regards to their peers. "She's So Bendable" is really the only thing here that immediately piqued my interest as something different. maybe we're not listening to the same album, but all i keep hearing is the same old synthed-out, four-on-the-floor dance-punk stuff i've been hearing since 2004.