Album review: The Bravery ‘Stir The Blood’ (Island)

They haven't exactly moved on, but The Bravery remain pleasingly weird

[a]The Bravery[/a]’s second album famously failed to come out over here, despite the band having at one time been neck-and-neck with [a]The Killers[/a] in the new new romantic stakes. While they’ve slipped out of view for us, (and, indeed, you’ll only be able to buy this album on import for now) apparently they’ve been doing pretty well in the States, and after singer Sam Endicott recently came out as the writer of [a]Shakira[/a]’s striptease backing track She Wolf’ we were quite looking forward to hearing where The Bravery have gone since we last heard from them.

Well, turns out they’ve just stayed as still as Endicott’s jet-black quiff. Their sound remains [a]Visage[/a] meets [a]Sisters Of Mercy[/a] meets [a]Haircut 100[/a]. Which actually is no bad thing, as their big hit ‘An Honest Mistake’ proved, it’s just that when ‘Song For Jacob’ or ‘Adored’ occupy such a similar template, it’s almost self-parodic. Except their Future Sailors shtick isn’t tongue-in-cheek.

This is part of their problem; being so po-faced on songs such as ‘I Have Seen The Future’ makes it almost impossible not to ridicule them (as with [a]Marilyn Manson[/a]’s ‘Mechanical Animals’, the future is apparently filled with rubbish synth-metal). Another one of their problems is Endicott’s voice, which sounds like a friendless Gary Numan being pushed on a swing by a stranger; it grates, and when it reaches new levels of shrillness on ‘Red Hands And White Knuckles’, it tortures.

And yet if you can overlook such stylistic clunkings and immerse yourself in the ‘Blue Steel’ of Bravery-world, there’s much fun to be had. ‘Slow Poison’ and ‘Jack-O-Lantern Man’ are [a]Spandau Ballet[/a] in their choruses, and [a]New Order[/a] in their basslines, and slowies ‘Sugar Pill’ and ‘She’s So Bendable’ add touches of [a]Soft Cell[/a] to the obvious [a]Jesus And Mary Chain[/a] aping that we now associate with [a]The Horrors[/a].

Also, Sam Endicott is quite pathological in his imagery, and on this album casts himself as a masochist who wants to be punished for being a bad little boy. The nicely unpleasant ‘Hatefuck’ has him squealing, “If I put my fingers in your mouth would you bite them”, while on ‘I Am Your Skin’ he sings “I want to be your skin/I want to feel everything you feel/I want to be your covering”. Sam Endicott is almost certainly a serial killer and we wouldn’t want to be his next-door neighbour, but this does mean The Bravery are still one of the weirdest bands around. They’re out of step, out of time, out of place, and have completely gone off on one in their own strange little world; as such, there’s much to admire about The Bravery. Just never go down to Endicott’s basement.

Martin Robinson

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