Brave Bird’s album Maybe You, No One Else Worth It (Count Your Lucky Stars Records) is a tough sell in a world of 30 second previews. Today a band needs to hook you in that half-minute or less if their tunes are to grace your Beats by Dre again, and this often proves detrimental to any album that needs space to grow if it is to be truly appreciated. And this record is nothing if not a grower. It’s raw emotion brazenly pumped through dynamic vocals combined with music that takes more twists than Chubby Checker on a metric ton of coke. And even more difficult to grasp in our land of immediacy and impulse, is that MYNOEWI is not a perfect record in the traditional sense – there are moments when the music feels so off-kilter that you wonder if it was by design, or perhaps a bad take in the studio. With these imperfections, it would be easy for the casual listener to write off Brave Bird in an era where listeners move from band to band with truly reckless abandon. But for those of you willing to spend some time with it, to dig a bit below the surface, there is a lot to value in here, like in a Blood Brothers song, a Pynchon book, or any movie by Harmonie Korine. I will admit, I didn’t really like this album at first, but for some reason I kept coming back to it, and now I’m very glad I did. Those things about the record that might put you off at first are now the things I love about it the most.
The first thing that stood out to me were the vocals, and they are what I would classify as anti-pop. If this were a singing competition, these guys wouldn’t be making any final rounds, but that’s not what Brave Bird is going for. It’s like calling Rothko a shitty painter of portraits – it might be true, but that’s not the point, and it tells more about the yardstick being used to judge him than of his artistry itself. Brave Bird are often compared to Brand New, and from a vocal standpoint, I get it. You know those times when Jesse Lacey lets his emotion take over and his vocals wander far from technical perfection, becoming more impactful because of it? Well it’s like that in reverse. Brave Bird is almost always imperfect, but they occasionally break forth into the soothingly melodic, and it hits you quite hard. Like I said before, there is an adjustment period needed here for the casual listener. It may not be what you’re used to, but this album is better, much better in fact, because of it.
Instrumentally, Brave Bird is a three-piece that sounds far fuller than your average trio. The guitars are much like the vocals (avant garde and sometimes off-putting) but very technical. The guitar lines noodle around quite a bit and I can literally hear fingers flying all around the fret board from one end to the other. It’s amazing that guitarist Chris Lieu can do all of this while putting so much effort into his vocals, a sight I would love to see live. And amidst this sea of chaos, the drums are the anchor that make it all work. No matter where the guitars and vocals go off to, the drums steer the ship with their steady and driving beats. They control the tempo and provide a nice counterpoint to the rest of the music.
While I have stressed the unconventional and turbulent aspects of Bad Bird’s sound, I should also mention that this chaos isn’t all encompassing. There are songs like ‘The Worst Things Always Happen To Me’ that have moments and long segments of melody and harmony, and when a song does stray far from the well-beaten pop roads, taking a few turns down angular alleyways, you are rewarded with a massive hook in the chorus. These explosions of melody always exist just around the next bend, and while I hesitate to say that they are more enjoyable than the parts that precede them, they are certainly the sweet that contrasts the saltiness permeating the record. It’s like a chocolate covered pretzel – the two wildly different flavors taste amazing together, each heightening the enjoyability of the other.
In closing, after nearly a dozen listens to this record it continues to grow on me. In fact, at this point, it’s one of the better albums I’ve heard this year. I find that the vulnerability that comes through in Lieu’s voice often reminds me of situations I lived through in younger years, and I can’t help but identify. Brave Bird has done something…well…brave with their début LP, which is to create something that is not for everyone, but at the same time is not lost to total obscurity. It is an honest, technical, and highly enjoyable record, but you might have to listen to it two or three times before you realize it.
Grade: “A definite grower, but well worth the time investment”
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