Record Review: The Bravery

This story was published April 7, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

When I went to Plan 9 to pick up The Bravery’s self-titled debut album, the guy who rang me up looked at the CD. “Oh, hell yeah!” he said. Eagerly, I asked if he liked the album. He handed me the receipt, looked at me funny and said, “Oh, the CD? I haven’t heard it. I was just saying ‘hell yeah’ in general.”

I put the album in my Walkman and left, a little confused. That feeling hasn’t gone away.

Maybe I’m just feeble minded, or maybe it’s because The Bravery’s lyrics are crappy and don’t make sense. Either way, The Bravery is chock-a-bock full of clichés and incomprehensible phrases.

Exhibit A: “Too many fingers/too many thumbs/something wicked this way comes/the best time I ever had/waiting around for something bad/and I know that’s why you love me, chica.” The only person allowed to use “chica” in a professional music setting should be Carlos Santana.

Despite the wack wording, I liked the album. The melodies are catchy, and there is something endearing about five guys wearing eyeliner and dancing stiff-legged. I spent last summer listening to The Faint’s Blank-Wave Arcade; now I associate hot weather with heady drum beats and plenty of synthesizer, two prominent elements of The Bravery’s sound.

The first appealing track, “Out of Line,” begins with choppy synth work and a catchy drum beat. Soon, metallic guitars lighten the mood and airy vocals pull everything together. Clearly the album’s best, this song shows The Bravery’s knack for cohesive, dancey music.

“Give In” reminds me of U2, but without any underlying messages. In fact, that’s a defining feature of the album — The Bravery is shallow music. It’s only strong on the surface, but I’m still captivated by its charm.

Tracks like “Swollen Summer” and “Public Service Announcement” are the band’s attempt at avoiding labels (Bad ’80s Cover Band) or catching flak from music scenesters (SPIN’s harsh verdict: Jocks with Makeup.)

The hair band guitars and frenetic beat in “Swollen Summer” power a multi-vocal chorus: “It’s like a swollen summer/what if I’m getting dumber/what if I’m just in denial/what if they come and cop my style?” Three questions that keep me up at night too, boys.

And just when the lyrics couldn’t get any worse, the Strokes-y “Public Service Announcement” delivers the ultimate diss: “You put the broke in broken hearted/you put the ‘art’ in retarded.”

The Bravery’s single, “Unconditional,” has gotten medium-heavy airplay on MTV for several months; through music videos and interviews, they have been branded a superficial, image-obsessed group of New York posers. Their CD carries that vibe; the liner notes say, “Recorded by The Bravery … in various bedrooms and at Bushwick Studios.” I get the feeling the guys haven’t been in the scene long enough to gain the necessary humility. Part of being indie/emo/underground is suffering in silence, unless you’re Dashboard Confessional, in which case you suffer on airwaves all across America.

I don’t like The Bravery’s emaciated lead singer, their blurry press photos or their vanity and apparent self-absorption. But the music is great.

So I’m just going to say “Hell yeah,” and leave the decision up to you.

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