Brakes - The Beatific Visions
Owen Stallings 09/12/2006
For those of you who don't already know, Brakes are a Brighton super-group made up of members of British Sea Power and The Electric Soft Parade. Their debut album, Give Blood, was hailed in some quarters as an inspirational affair by those seduced by its haphazard, wonky weirdness and short, jagged songs. Others, however, simply viewed it as a dog's dinner, and an insubstantial one at that.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that Brakes was only a side project that such an unfocused product materialised. However, having decided to make Brakes a full-time concern and move the recording process to Nashville, there clearly was no excuse this time around. And, to be fair, the result is an album with a little more focus, although half-arsed ideas and sonic cul-de-sacs still seem to be the order of the day rather than the production of fully rounded songs. There again, any outfit that contains members of two vastly over-rated bands has to be viewed with some suspicion at the outset.
As to the songs themselves, only the country-tinged If I Should Die Tonight and the folk ballad, Isabel, rise out of the melee. But this in no way a ringing endorsement of these two tracks, they just happen to be better than the rest, but that isn't really saying an awful lot. Indeed, Mobile Communication is simply a pseudo-Grandaddy track that Grandaddy themselves would've chucked immediately. Porcupine or Pineapple? might well be a live favourite, but it's still a clumsy mess, both sonically and lyrically.
In terms of an overall vision, Beatific Visions doesn't have one. That's not to say that a band really needs one, it's just that if that's missing, then either something equally endearing or original, or just truly memorable songs needs to fill the void. Beatific Visions fails in both departments. Despite repeated listens, this album simply passed me by, and the final note of the final song continued to be warmly welcomed.