Brakes USA Tour reviews + pics

Scroll down to Great Scott, 7th October, for videos of Ring A Ding Ding, No Return (which features both White brothers on breath-taking guitar…) and Porcupine Or Pineapple. Also Jackson at Hi-Dive, 15th October. Click link for a Brakes photo…

SOUTHPAW, Brooklyn, New York – 2nd October (scroll down for photos) More photos The Fat Cat showcase continued with Brighton’s Brakesbrakesbrakes and their set of sturdy rock numbers included cute 15-second songs like “Spring Chicken” and “Porcupine or Pineapple” played a second time after guitarist, Tom White admitted he “fucked up the chorus.” White was the most entertaining of the quartet, thrashing about and raking his guitar violently along the mic stand.

NORTH STAR BAR, Philadelphia – 3rd October – Only the throwing of wads of cash would’ve made the punk-pop evening at the North Star Bar – featuring England’s Brakesbrakesbrakes and the Glaswegian twin bill of the Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks – better.

The second act, Brakesbrakesbrakes (a.k.a. Brakes), didn’t – put on the brakes, that is. While Tom White played a forceful, fuzz-toned rhythm guitar, Eamon Hamilton crooned with a handsome yet brusque voice. Tracks like “Hey Hey” were thrilling, danceable pop-punk of the highest order. When Brakes did chill for a moment, on the soft and roomy “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man),” the rest didn’t last, as the song’s bridge was but a gateway to a ruckus. Brakes (or as they are known in the states BrakesBrakesBrakes) took the stage with a much more seasoned and assorted set. Drawing from the talents and experiences of a group consisting of members (or past members) of British Sea Power, Tenderfoot and Electric Soft Parade the band has a lot of internal influences and it was evident in their live set.

Brakes, compared to WWPJ, have a much more weathered and varied sound. They wavered between a raucous and snarky punk side and a more traditional alternative delivery. Songs like Hey Hey are infused with energy and performed accordingly while simpler romantic pop songs like Leaving England/First Dance were given a low key and tender treatment. Eamon broke any predictable pattern by dropping off beat tunes like Porcupine Or Pineapple and a cover of Johnny Cash’s Jackson into the line up. As they got further into their show their quality and ease became much more apparent.

BLACK CAT, Washington DC – 5th October After brief shifting of equipment and gear, the stage was set for the arrival of Brakesbrakesbrakes. In my head I’ll always think of them as Brakes because that’s what they’re known as everywhere in the world except America (courtesy of a Philadelphia band who had already called dibs on the Brakes moniker here in the States), so they will be referred to as Brakes for the rest of this review. Of the three bands, I’m most familiar with Brakes’s back catalogue, and they’ve never played Washington before, so I was excited to say the least. Their third and latest album, Touchdown, was released back in April.

They’re an extremely versatile band, with songs running the gamut from folky, country rock (”On Your Side”) to punk (”Porcupine or Pineapple”) to more straight forward rock ‘n’ roll (”Don’t Take Me to Space [Man]“). Singer/guitarist Eamon Hamilton led Brakes (with Thomas White on guitar, Marc Beatty on bass, and Alex White on drums) on a rousing set of 16 songs across their three albums. “Hey Hey,” a raucous, guitar-heavy tune from Touchdown, was a joy to hear live finally, along with “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man),” my favorite off the new album. One enthusiastic fan exclaimed that being that we were in D.C., the band had to play “Cheney,” a song from the band’s first album Give Blood; it’s a five-second tirade against our former not-so-beloved vice president. Hamilton rewarded the fan by asking him to “count in” the song for them. It went over so well that another fan was chosen to do the same, to even louder audience cheers. – BrakesBrakesBrakes, or better known as Brakes in countries without lots of lawyers, also put out a fantastic album this year, Touchdown. Continuing their genre hopping, the band played a record amount of music. Since many of their songs are short, and fairly stylistically varied, they were able to really switch it up, song after song. From punk to indie, to country to acoustic ballads, nothing seemed out of the realm of possibilities. After playing 11 or 12 songs in 30 minutes the band settled down and the remainder of their set included the gorgeous “No Return,” one of the few songs all year that struck me this powerfully. Given their attitudes and the frantic energy they play with, it is really hard not to love Brakes.

BOWERY BALLROOM, New York – 6th October Edwina was more familiar with Brakes (Brakesbrakesbrakes in the US due to a band name conflict) and it was their inclusion on the bill that made her eager to catch the show. She spoke of their funnier songs such as Porcupine or Pineapple and Cheney, a blast of noise about Dick Cheney. What she didn’t talk about much was the wit and strength of the band as they eased their way effortlessly through genres varying from disco to post-punk noise rock to instances of Eamon Hamilton on guitar just conversing directly with the audience.

The songs were put together easily enough, and never drowned out the vocals which was grand because even the songs which you’d expect to be throw away novelty tracks would usually contain bits of wit sung with great aplomb as Eamon would pull faces that brought to mind Woody Harrelson portraying Popeye the Sailor and gave every song a bit of a bitter angry undercurrent in the performance, though to assume that Eamon was the only band member of note is a mistake. Tom White the guitarist managed to talk his brother, Alex, into performing a Soca drum solo that segued into the final three songs of their set.

Nearly every song was a stand out track and if I’d had the money, I would have cleaned out the merch table. There are a number of videos of them on YouTube, and you could certainly find a worse way to spend a half hour than by going through them.


Flickr: Set OneSet TwoSet Three —  Brooklyn Vegan (scroll down)

GREAT SCOTT, Allston – 7th October (with photos) First up, Brakesbrakesbrakes, for the purpose of brevity hereto know as ‘Brakes’ (another band by that name requiring the U.S.-only name change). Those who arrived early had a nice treat. For myself, a Brakes virgin, delightful and somewhat unexpected quirkiness, craziness, and fun mix of styles. Slow pretty tunes with lovely, flowing melodic guitar supplied by Tom White. Who then turned on a dime into a madman, leaping about in search of ‘found objects’ – a beer bottle, the mic stand – to use as a slide. Seemingly random and erratic, yet amazingly precise, perfectly harmonizing with Eamon Hamilton’s equally crazed and powerful vocals, with the incredibly sharp rhythm section of Marc Beatty (bass) and Alex White (drums) giving them a solid base and safe haven from where to shoot off, in all directions. At one point when Tom was especially lost in the moment (along with the rest of us), the cord came unplugged from his guitar. With mild amusement but truly not missing a beat, he waited until just the right moment a few seconds later at the end of the song to plug it back in with dramatic flourish, the resulting sound so perfect, that while it seems so terrifically silly, that was the defining moment that cemented it for me. I love these guys.

EL MOCAMBO, Toronto – 10th October

chromewaves.netphotos here Tom White obviously having a grand time abusing his Telecaster as Hamilton brayed intently while being equally hard on his acoustic. I had thought Hamilton mad when he gave up his gig as keyboardist/drum-banger/rabble-rouser for British Sea Power but it’s pretty clear now he knew what he was doing. (with photos) The UK’s the Brakes started the evening with an adrenaline boosting set of super-catchy pop songs. Fronted by former British Sea Power member Eamon Hamilton, the band formed in 2003 and has toured with the likes of Belle & Sebastian and the Killers, their experience evident both in ability and crow-pleasing interaction. – They have a stunning ability to jump right from ballad material into high-speed, throw-down straight up rock songs; exhibited by an extended version of their new single Don’t Take Me To Space (Man), the upbeat, rather optimistic song progressed into a lower key, dirge style haunt before picking right back up and blowing up the venue for a stunning climax. Guitarist provided a slew of kicks throughout the show, advancing the belief that happy music can still be aggressive.

EMPTY BOTTLE, Chicago – 12th October

undergroundbee.comphotos here I’ve been a fan of Brakes since the band released Give Blood in 2005, and the group’s latest CD, Touchdown, is another strong recording. Opening Monday night’s show, Brakes slammed through a series of quick songs, tossing off these punk, post-punk, country and rock gems like musical haikus. Several of the songs end abruptly, as soon as Brakes have said everything they want to say. The shortest song of the night was so short that Brakes played it twice: the 2005 political commentary “Cheney,” which consists of about 30 seconds of the name “Cheney!” being chanted over and over followed by the eloquent plea: “Stop being such a dick!” The band also threw in a cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s “Shut Us Down,” but the highlights were some of the now-classic songs from Brakes’ 2005 debut and new tracks like the catchy “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man)” and the wistful “Leaving England.” Somewhere into the second or third song I became absolutely transfixed by Thomas’ guitarwork. Yes, regular readers, you know what he was doing. Aside from the usual bits necessary to be played in order to fulfill the song’s requirements, he would, towards the end and in the small solos taken in the middle, move between the amp and front facing speaker so as to manipulate the sound. That always makes me a bit woozy. And if you’re an aficionado of this feat, you also know that some artists do it with considerable more skill than others. Thomas was a master at throwing out just the right note for just the right amount of time and letting it hang there to be looped back around in an infinite circle of sound, deteriorating with every second that it reverberated there. I ambushed him after the set and demanded an explanation, of course (visit the blog to read more)

HI-DIVE, Denver – 15th October

KILBY COURT, Salt Lake City – 16th October – photos at BrakesBrakesBrakes has evolved into something of a dynamic, if hard to pin down, rock band. Live, their sound is as slippery as it is on record, sliding from an arena-rock Beatnik Filmstars on the more “indie-rock” numbers to Clinic-gone-country on the acoustic songs.

It’s all good fun, though, and their setlist equally covered all three of their albums, opening with the stomping “All Night Disco Party” from their 2005 debut. They played a lot of bouncy upbeat numbers like “Ring a Ding Ding”, “Spring Chicken”, and “Hey Hey” – the highlight of the set was probably a blazing version of “Don’t Take Me To Space (Man)” from their latest studio release, Touchdown. They rounded out the set with some folkier songs like “On Your Side” and “NY Pie”, one of my favorites from their first record. They seemed to be in good spirits as well, in spite of the low turnout.

RICKSHAW STOP, San Francisco – 21st October (click for full review + pics) As anyone who reads this blog knows, I can be a loyal listener, and once a band or an artists gets under my skin, I want to support them for as long as I can. It doesn’t hurt when the performers in question continue to kick around the club circuit, even flying in from overseas and traipsing all the way to the western edge of this country to do so. Chalk one up for Brakes on each of the aforementioned counts.

The fuller sound of Touchdown translated quite well to the environs of the Rickshaw Stop. Among the newer songs, “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man)” swept through on a refreshing breeze that characterizes much of the record, while “Leaving England” carried some poignancy when Eamon informed us it was based on a true story.

Those of you who’ve seen Brakes in concert before may be heartened to know that other elements have remained the same. They made use of their last moments of stage time with not one but two–two!–takes of “Comma Comma Full Stop.” The paean de punctuation forever endears them in this copy editor’s heart, but apparently, I wasn’t alone in feeling its pull. The song was so explosive that guitarist Thomas White had to descend from the stage and plant himself on the club floor, as if to ground himself from the tune’s full force. This time, at least, he lived to tell.