Brakes: An alternative view
Union Marketplace, 9th October 2007
There’s a moment during tonight’s headline set when even the pissed-up plebs at the front pipe down and for four glorious minutes the world slows to a crawl. Against a plateau of subtly melodic feedback, Eamon Hamilton’s idiosyncratic wail becomes a sorrowful howl of anguish as he recalls a dying relationship via the incidental drama of rifling through old records. The song in question is No Return, the closing track of Brakes’ superb Beatific Visions LP. An all-too fleeting glimpse of the beating heart behind their peculiar brand of knockabout whimsy, it’s a disarmingly serene interlude in an otherwise sprightly evening’s entertainment.
As one might expect from an act which started life as a side-project, there’s a playful exuberance to Brakes which could only come from the unique chemistry of four mates larking around onstage. Tracks like their wilfully childish ode to U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney (“Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney / Stop being such a dick!”) come and go in the blink of an eye, dragging the average song-length down to around 90 seconds. It’s a knowing strategy that leaves plenty of breathing space for the band to try their hand at a number of musical styles, with breezy hoe-downs, indie stompers and even a well-timed Johnny Cash cover all getting an airing tonight.
With so much of their output apparently conceived with such gleeful irreverence, it comes as no surprise that the best reaction is saved for the irrepressible inanity of Porcupine or Pineapple?, a song they introduce as a treatise on “animals, fruit and warfare”. While Brakes would no doubt be the first to admit that they’re saying nothing of any import, when a band is this much fun it seems churlish to quibble. Eventually they abandon the setlist altogether and the whole thing degenerates into an impromptu request-a-thon, leaving even the most casual onlooker with their heart stolen clean away.
With sterling support from the Biffy-cum-Get Up Kids clatter of The Xcerts (whose set culminates in their singer wandering through the crowd screaming into a megaphone), this was both a fine start to Warwick’s live music calendar and a much-needed jolt of adrenaline after a week of non-stop partying. Heroic stuff all round, then: if you missed it, you missed out.
Photo: Rob Gilbert
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