It’s an odd coincidence that literally a few minutes before I started writing this post, I changed my Facebook status to “I really don’t want the ’90s to happen again. I was promised a future and I DEMAND WHAT’S RIGHTFULLY MINE.
Except it’s probably not unrelated because we had this album on in the office yesterday, and it’s slowly permeating my brain. It’s interesting how its sounds are more like smells. Not to say that Brother stink, but the dizzying temporal vertigo induced by the particular tones of the guitars has the sort of gut-punching evocative power that the smell of someone’s perfume, or coffee, or creosote, can have, flinging me back to a pound-a-pint basement nightclub in darkest Yorkshire round about 1996. Except these would have been the songs I used as a window to go and put more glitter eyeliner on in the bathroom.
Does that matter, though? Everything reuses older styles in some way, and, anyway, granny, if you’ve got tunes, are 17-year-olds going to give a naff if Brother often come off as an elaborate Chris Morris hoax on the lameness of the music industry crossed with this Fast Show sketch (thanks to Luke Lewis for that acute observation)?
Let’s find out…
‘New Year’s Day’
Starting off with that sort of fresh, wide-eyed, Track-Four-on-Tape-One-of-the-latest-Shine compilation bounce (readers under the age of about 28 may want to turn on some kind of sneer filter), it’s crisply, beautifully produced, sounding startlingly real and solid in comparison to a lot of the washed-out post-chillwave guff floating around, at least. This is also the first use we’ll see of Brother’s favourite trick: the elongated vowel. Here they’ve selected ‘ay’ of ‘da-ay-ay-ay’.
Well, are you? They are. Today’s vowel-sound is the ‘aaaaaar’ of ‘afaaaaaaaar’ but ALSO the ‘i-i-i-i’ of ‘ti-i-i-ime’ delivered in the same tongue-twisty way that Liam Gallagher says “sheeeeeiiiiiine”. The guitar here is swaggering and bolshy (these words are not insults) with a saucy, teasing descent to a stomping chorus.
Double whammy on the ‘tii-i-i-ime’ here, and a playful bushy-tailed feel with raw-edged, simple riffs, that as many around NME Towers have noticed is more reminiscent of early Blur than any-era-Oasis, whatever Lee Newell’s choice in eyewear (hardly surprising with Stephen Street on production duties, I grant you). “It takes a moron to know one and he knows me… he makes a meal out of everything but he’s never had me round for tea”.
‘High Street Low Lives’
More instantly aggressive and Blurrier than ever, this is faster paced, Lee bawling from the aspirational Britpop ‘I’m KING OF THE WORLD!” hymnbook: “this is real and I am free/This is what I wanna be/Cos life’s too short and I’m too high and nobody’s getting out alive” Vowels here are relatively clipped although the ‘eee’ of ‘freee’ manages a decent few beats.
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This is the one the band reportedly consider to be their deal-sealing ‘epic’, a wistful, nostalgic, romantic but still MANLY one in a ‘Day We Caught The Train’/’Walkaway’/’Champagne Supernova’ way, with a bit of falsetto and everything. And there’s that ‘ti-iii-iime’ again…
‘Darling Buds Of May’
You can’t deny that this song is catchy. Catchy in the way that ‘Coffee + TV’ was catchy. And it is vowel-crazy, brothers and sisters! There’s “Maaa-aaa-aaay”, “neeo-ooo-oooow”, “ooo-eee-oowww”… it’s a virtual elocution course for those hoping to blend in around the upper social echelons of Camden 15 years ago.
That lone-guitar intro is eerily reminiscent of the start of ‘Shakermaker’, isn’t it? EERIE. Anyway, ‘Fakermaker’ turns out to be nowhere near as mean and moody as that but is instead a solid, rolling, driving-down-the-road-in-the-sunshine, about-track-seven-on-the-album sort of number.
‘Fly By Nights’
A cheeky ‘Digsy’s Dinner’-meets-‘Tracy Jacks’ sort of cut that yanks a brawler of a chorus out of its pocket. Handclaps too! “Ow-ow-ow-owww” makes a feature here though the “yooooou” of “excuse” and “iiii” of “niiiiight” are also prominent.
A slightly baggy vibe this one, with a loose, rolling, Roses-loving romance, but a bullish chorus. Please respond to all future alarms, yeah? Bonus points for repeated use of the word “shining”.
Well, if love is a time machine, I am currently feeling more firmly in the present than I’ve ever been, but I do like the bad attitude buzzing twang of the guitars on this one.
For someone my age, it’s almost impossible to come at this album clear-headed; it’s too loaded with cultural tics and details that make it, depending which of two rather shit camps you’re forced into, either an amusing nostalgic joke or a brain-bogglingly shameless pastiche. With Britpop-virgin ears, I imagine it would sound like a bright, fun, uncomplicated guitar-pop album. I think. The people who hate Brother with an “urgh, ladrock, lager, boorish, stupid bleeeurgh” knee-jerk annoy me so much I really want to stand on the other side with the pro camp just to be awkward. But I’m not sure I can. Yet. Give it another four weeks of office-stereo bombardment, though, and I’ll probably be off down the market shopping for round-framed shades.