Brakes - Paradiso, Amsterdam - 2/07/05

There is an inherent giddyness in their songs which bursts through on-stage, surprising quite a few of the audience who doubtless expect every new band to sound like Joy Division.



Eight o' clock on a summer's evening is a somewhat early hour for a gig to start, especially when (as is the case with Brakes), you are promoting an album that is around half an hour long. Still, who cares? Brakes are great (they sounded great running through new song Tabitha during their soundcheck), and the moderate crowd that has assembled upstairs at the Paradiso are patently curious to see how the latest British band will cut the mustard live.


It's becoming quite an in-joke at present in Amsterdam; seeing the "next British band". Somewhere in the telling of this joke is a tacit acknowledgement of a secret production line of guitar bands somewhere in Hampshire. If there was such a thing, (doubtless run by a major label), it wouldn't surprise me at any rate. Happily, Brakes can't be accused of being manufactured. They certainly don't fall into any obviously fashionable, or pre-conceived musical category. Neither have they been styled or groomed by an over-arduous record company. If we have to play a reference game, I suppose their closest musical cousins would be Guided By Voices, with whom they share the same love of old fashioned, stripped-down songwriting and the same no-nonsense approach to putting on a show.


What will have to propel Brakes to the success they deserve are the songs they write. Luckily, this is a department in which they are abundantly blessed. Even better, the Give Blood songs gain so much from a live outing. Even the twenty-second blasts, such as Cheney or Comma Comma Full Stop benefit from being played live. Loud and invigorating, they punctuate the proceedings at regular intervals, becoming refreshing counterpoints to the rest of the set.



Brakes start off the evening amiably enough with Ring a Ding Ding, NY Pie and You're So Pretty. The band obviously feel their way into this gig; almost second-guessing the mood of the crowd. By the time Heard About Your Band gets an airing, Brakes seem to relax, simultaneously stepping up a gear, allowing the music to fizz and sparkle. There is an inherent giddyness in their songs, which bursts through on-stage, surprising quite a few of the audience who doubtless expect every new band to sound like Joy Division. A thumping Hi How Are You and What's In It For Me? follow, the treble on Tom White's guitar being savaged for all it's worth. The best is saved for later though. I Can't Stand To Be Beside You is a rumbling, growling, bad-tempered behemoth, whilst All Night Disco Party sheds it's toy town chunkiness and gains a cavalier swagger that gets everyone in the room dancing.


As usual the band members are charm themselves. Eamon repeatedly telling us how good it is to be back in the Dam; (would it that other outfits told us similar instead of treating the Paradiso as an extension of the Barfly), Tom and Alex White uniting the guitar and drum parts into a shifting, explosive collage of noise, whilst Marc Beatty underpins the entire enterprise with bass runs that (quite surprisingly) had me thinking of Nile Rogers. Now, is that a far-fetched notion or what?


So successful is this low key outing that an encore is demanded. A sheepish Eamon obliges with an acoustic guitar; running through Fell In Love With a Girl. Then it's all over, a gig lasting thirty minutes. However, that observation, as I hinted at before, is not really the point. Brakes pack more quality into that half hour than most other bands could manage in double the time. Great things await.




Words: Richard Foster