Brakes played their first American show last night at Pianos. The band is basically an outlet for British Sea Power keyboardist Eamon Hamilton to vent his spleen about a variety of topics — love, politics, the music industry — with Tom and Alex of Electric Soft Parade and the Tenderfoot’s Marc Beatty fleshing out his ideas musically. It’s all very angry and funny, and I’m guessing Eamon is a big fan of ’80s West Coast punkers like Black Flag and the Germs, as stuff like the Minutemen and Camper Van Beethoven. Brakes have that sort of spirit, as most of the songs are under two minutes, and more than a few are under 30 seconds (the vitriolic blast that is "Cheney," as in VP Dick, is nearly as short as the Minutemen’s "Ack Ack Ack").
The show was a blast, the guys really enjoy playing these songs and that energy was definitely transferred to the audience. It was a late show for a Monday — ads promised a 10:30 start but they didn’t start till an hour later — but the crowd (not sold out but close I’d say) was in good spirits. Most, if not all, of songs from Brakes’ debut, Give Blood, were played and the band were pretty tight, though Eamon broke a G string (he played an acoustic the whole time) early on but he just kept going. (If you know anything about guitars, when a string breaks, basically all the other strings go instantly out of tune.) It didn’t matter, the show was about the energy. And volume. Dear lord, they were loud. Highlights included the singles "Ring a Ding Ding" (that sounds a lot like Roxy Music’s "Virginia Plain") and the tongue-in-cheek "All Night Disco Party" ("A true story!" Eamon told the crowd), the lovely "You’re So Pretty" and two back-to-back run-throughs of "Cheney." They also threw in two covers — Camper Van Beethoven‘s "Shut Us Down" and the Jesus & Mary Chain‘s "Sometimes Always," which is an odd choice as, you may remember, the original is a duet with Hope Sandoval. (Eamon sang the whole thing himself.)
The other members British Sea Power, having played the Across the Narrows fest the day before, were in the crowd to give support and were looking dapper as usual, though off-stage they ditch the old-time military garb for a more preppy look. The Octagon preceded Brakes, who are somewhere between The Libertines and The Replacements. The band knows how to write catchy songs with good shouty choruses but, like the two bands referenced, they were a little on the sloppy side. Okay, a lot sloppy.
There are still chances to see them. Today, Brakes play a 5pm show at Neighborhoodies on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, and then play Pianos again tonight, though it’s a somewhat earlier show (8:30), with The Octagon at 7:30 and The Other Passengers at 9:30. I have a feeling tonight’s show will be more crowded, if not sold out.
PS… the video for "Ring a Ding Ding" is pretty good but good luck getting it to play without it pausing to load every 20 seconds. Sanctuary Records has the cruddiest, slowest website ever.