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The Bravery’s New Release, “Stir The Blood,” A Shallow Ordeal

by Rudy Klapper 2 December 2009 193 views 2 Comments E-mail Rudy Klapper

The Bravery - Stir The Blood

Island 2009

Rating: 4/10


Second place has often been called just the first loser, and for New York City dance-rock band the Bravery, it’s been an apt description. Just another cynical band aping New Order when they wandered onto the scene in 2005 with “A Honest Mistake,” they were beaten to the dance-punk punch by the Killers and lost in the shuffle of a myriad of impersonators. Their sophomore effort barely registered a blip on the national radar, a victim of their own ability to translate their ear for a hit single over the course of a whole album. Stir The Blood, meanwhile, comes at an interesting juncture in the band’s life; singer/guitarist Sam Endicott seems to have found his calling as a pop writer, co-writing three Shakira songs and an unreleased track off the new Christina Aguilera CD. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know it from listening to Stir The Blood, a record that does little to advance the Bravery’s reputation past that of a middling rock band still coasting by on a tired sound.

It’s not that the Bravery don’t know how to write good songs. The hazy folk of “She’s So Bendable” reveals a pleasantly surprising side of the band, while tracks like “The Spectator” and opener “Adored” prove that the Bravery have refined their dance-floor rock shtick to a glossy sheen. Even a song as terribly titled and disturbing as “Hatefuck,” where singer/guitarist Sam Endicott desperately asks one to “love me mercilessly,” succeeds on raw sexual aggression and the band’s relentlessly driving pulse. And while Endicott continues to make his case as one of the genre’s worst lyricists on terrible metaphors like “Sugar Pill,” the song’s trippy Velvet Underground vibe and haunting atmosphere close the album out in fine fashion.

Ah, but what it takes to get there. The Bravery still have an almost compulsive urge to transform every other song into a vanilla synth-rock pastiche, a by-the-numbers creation that makes up in shiny guitars and cheesy ‘80s keyboards what it lacks in genuine substance. Tunes like “Song For Jacob” and uninspired first single “Slow Poison” seem like they could have been plucked off of any Bravery album and merely rearranged in a different key, songs that are remarkable only for their lack of anything resembling progress or growth. But even the best imitation synth-rock here, from “I Am Your Skin” to “Red Hands and White Knuckles,” is derailed by what should be their strongest asset. Listeners long ago decided whether or not they could tolerate Endicott’s uniquely whiny voice, an intriguing mix between a Brandon Flowers-esque croon and the kind of oscillating screech that stellastarr* singer Shawn Christensen is famous for. But despite Endicott’s admittedly one-dimensional range, it’s his moronic lyrics that truly magnify his weaknesses. The combination of Endicott’s overwrought vocals and lyrics like “I wanna feel everything you feel / I will be your covering” or “down I’m locked and loaded / you’re so milk and roses / and I am just a letdown of your hound” make Endicott come off as sort of a posturing creep.

Whether it’s Endicott’s tired, cliché-ridden lyrics or the recycled sounds the band routinely beats to death, Stir The Blood more often than not resembles the musical equivalent of a used condom, a slimy piece of work that left me wincing in disgust more often than not. When Endicott proclaims himself “a nerve ending without a brain” on “I Have Seen The Future,” it’s an apt metaphor for the album as a whole. The Bravery have always been good to hit the dance-floor for a song or two, but it’s when they try to make it a long-term commitment that they reveal themselves to be an unhappily shallow ordeal.

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  • John said:

    Love it!

  • Stewie Geragos said:

    I thought the album was pretty sweet, but not as good as the past works.

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