Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"I could meet you at the foot of the mountain, dressed as a mountaineer": THE BROKEN FAMILY BAND and other Monday releases

Well yesterday was the release day for five much desired albums in these parts: The Broken Family Band's 'Please and Thank You'; Camera Obscura's 'My Maudlin Career'; Art Brut's 'Art Brut vs Satan'; Brakes's 'Touchdown' and Jeffrey Lewis's 'Em Are I'.

That's too much of a wallet-bashing for one week so I have adopted a spread-the-burden approach. Specifically: buying the first a week early from Rough Trade, planning to buy the second at tomorrow night's gig (therefore including this as 'gig spends' as opposed to 'record spends'), buying the third today (mission accomplished - importing to iTunes as I type), and relying on Mr P to buy the last two. Hmmm. Might be waiting a bit for this.

So whilst the last three are currently unheard, I can highly recommend both The Broken Family Band and Camera Obscura albums as being worthy of your hard-earned cash. The short review for both is: if you liked the album that preceded this (either 'Hello Love' or 'Let's Get Out Of This Country') you'll love this. But let's talk more about 'Please and Thank You'.

When BFB announced last year they were leaving Track and Field their home and label since 2003 with no immediate deal in place ("we are now officially the hottest unsigned band in Britain") I was deeply troubled by the apparent lack of a plan and what it might mean musically. But I needn't have worried. A new home (Cooking Vinyl) does not mean a radically altered sound even if the label blurb suggests otherwise:
Eight years in, The Broken Family Band have gradually shed the accordionists, the cute girl singers, the banjo players, even the American drawl, and reduced themselves to the unchanged core of Adams, bassist Gavin Johnson, guitarist Jay Williams and drummer Micky Roman. And they’ve made their best album so far.

Now I LIKED the accordian, the banjo, the female vocals and the American drawl but none of this disappeared overnight for this album. (Hence me saying if you liked 'Hello Love' etc etc.). So this album doesn't feel like a sudden departure, more a gradual development. But is it their best album so far?? Better than 'Balls' or 'Welcome Home Loser'??

Well it's just too early to say - I think you need to live with a record for a good couple of months before saying this with any confidence (cop out I know). But after the first few listens it definitely has plenty to recommend it. It combines Steven Adam's smart lyrics (by turns lascivious, sarcastic or humorous) with a strong, confident band sound that is closer to 'indie-rock' than 'indie-pop'. So over 12 songs there is only one that is close to a ballad (album closer 'Old Wounds') and the rest are more uptempo. So this means there is no equivalent to earlier, classic, songs like 'Give and Take', 'John Belushi' or 'It's All Over'. Well re-listening to the album there is love plea 'Mimi' ("I'm thinking you may be the one") and mid-tempo chugger 'You Did A Bad Thing' but these do not have as much presence on the album as the more 'rockin' tunes, most with great hooks, singalong choruses or both. And of these I could have posted any: indie survivors anthem 'Don't Bury Us', the sordid encounter tales of 'Please Yourself' or 'St Albans' (the latter a hoot) or first single 'Salivating' for instance. This is one of the strongest songs to my ears and easily stands up without the typically mocking approach to video promo below. Play this five times and you should be hooked. If not, this probably isn't for you...

So as ever with The Broken Family Band this new album just gets better with each listen. I'll be able to say in June whether it's one of their best. And in the meantime they are touring in April and May and there's some live footage of their March gig in Glasgow available courtesy of Jack Daniels.

The Broken Family Band
Please and Thank You [BUY]

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