By John-Severin Napolillo
The Brakes’s debut album, last year’s Give Blood, led listeners on an ADD filled journey through equal parts country and punk in under thirty minutes. Its first single clocks in at thirty seconds, with “won’t you pick up the phone” as the only decipherable lyric. Since Give Blood, front-man Eamon Hamilton has parted ways with British Sea Power. As far as changes to the actual sound of the Brakes, that dirty little “M” word comes to mind…maturity!
“Hold Me in the Water,” the album’s leadoff single, is impressively fun, considering it’s about getting your ass kicked. “Porcupine and Pineapple” has the same kind of spastic freak-out sound of early Thunderbirds Are Now! albums. The song maintains a hysterical juxtaposition between Hamilton’s nonsensical rants and newfound knack for intelligent political commentary. The Brakes have also brought their A-game to the folk-country tunes on the album with songs that echo The Band or Tom Petty’s country side.
The real surprise on Beatific Visions comes in the form of the final track “No Return.” The ominous keyboard hum in the background swirls around Hamilton’s vocals as he tells the tale of a lonely search in a record store. As the gorgeous strings slide in, “No Return” morphs into one of the saddest love song of the year. Hamilton lamenting that “the pain of being together is more than being apart” is almost tear-inducing. With “No Return,” the Brakes have marked their most vulnerable moment yet. Placing it as the album’s closer serves as an ingenious (and maddening) device, making it impossible for the listener to stop wondering what’s coming next.