Brakes - Give Blood

Give Blood in some ways is so simple it doesn't need all the other baggage. To mis-quote Mr Clinton, it's the songs, stupid. And these songs are incredibly strong.




Right. Confession time for yours truly. I have to admit I didn't "get" this album when I first played it. It seemed, on the first few listens like a collection of songs and mood pieces, hastily thrown together. Apart from the undeniable brilliance of the singles All Night Disco Party and Pick up the Phone, the rest of the album seemed to have no vibe at all. I just didn't get it. It confused me. I was expecting something more diverting, more complicated. After all I reasoned to myself, the band members are culled from groups that are known for diverting, interesting music. Groups I really like and admire, as in the case of Tenderfoot's Marc Beatty and Electric Soft Parade's Alex & Tom White; and groups I absolutely love, (now that would be Eamon Hamilton from British Sea Power, folks).


I left it a few days, and then put it on again, this time without my reviewers head on.


And I began to like it. A lot.


Of course. You stupid bugger, Foster. Give Blood in some ways is so simple it doesn't need all the other baggage. To mis-quote Mr Clinton, it's the songs, stupid. And these songs are incredibly strong. Diverse, funny, acute, wholly independent and self-reliant, they stand up to be counted, very much in the way Guided by Voices songs do. There isn't much theorising to do; rather, it's that rare item in modern music; a strong and consistent collection of stellar songs. With nothing more to add.


So, without further ado, I'll tell you about my favourite tracks on this album. Heard About Your Band is a riot, a veritable feast of vocal spleen-venting, nicely complemented by some dizzy guitar riffery from the old school. NY Pie bounces along like an old Model T Ford, reminding me for some reason of Robyn Hitchcock (I can't think why, but it does), whereas I Can't Stand to Be Beside You presents and exploits the full gamut of angry emotions in a very short space of time. Eamon's savage invocation of the song's title is set off against wonderfully terse backdrop of thrashing guitars and thumping drums. The single, All Night Disco Party should, by rights, be this summer's smash hit. It's dumb-ass, monolithic, savage and so utterly, compellingly obvious. It also goes a long way to restoring your faith in human nature. They should bottle this song's spirit and sell it as a tonic. 


Other faves? Well, let me see. What about the two covers? Yes, covers. I hear you wince and shudder, but please, do tarry a while longer. Jackson is so much fun, with the Duke's very own Liela Moss making a star turn. Liela and Eamon camp it up very effectively as the nixties' very own Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. I'd like this released as a single actually, as it would totally throw everyone, its so vaudeville. Sometimes Always is far better than the JAMC original, the appearance of the marvellous Pipettes doubtless swaying things here as the boy-girl chorus gives a sparkling charm to the proceedings.


So, there you are then, a straight review, without overdubs or flummery. Just like the album in question. I will also give you a straight answer as to whether you should purchase it or not. It's a very good album and I like it a lot. I suggest, therefore, that you check it out.


Words: Richard Foster