Music is like breakfast cereal. Some varieties can give you instant gratification with the snap, crackle, exploding-sugar-on-the-tongue pop sensation – mass produced and ready for quick consumption; but after two minutes its already old and soggy. Then there are the steady staples – tried and tested, good for you, but without the shiny packaging and instant sugar-rush gratification. Now, with that metaphor in mind, I’m going to stop short of calling Calgary power trio Brocade the musical equivalent of shredded wheat – but their product is equally unassuming and offers a wholesome alternative in a market saturated with sugar-coated, highly branded rivals.
Enough about cereal.
What we have here is the classic example of a slow-burner. A grower. Brocade’s debut album Like You Were Here is so much of a grower that is has taken me half a year to get around to writing about it. I received this album sometime around the turn of the year, and since then this Brocade CD has found itself permanently resting in the CD tray of my stereo. During the course of the past six months, I’ve probably listened to this album by default at least 30 times when my iPod hasn’t been docked, and while many other CD submissions have been spun and discarded. While other CDs find their way into a teetering Leaning-Tower-Of-Pisa shaped rejection, Brocade, have stood firm, defiant. My first impression upon hearing this album was lukewarm. 30 plays later, my appreciation has grown.
Brocade do the Alt Country thing that so many bands from “out West” in Canada seem to do. Thankfully, while there are some country hooks and keys, the songs are absent of any lyrics about diner waitresses, tractors and Chevy trucks. Of the more country heavy moments, Brocade get my interest most with the with the likes of “Every Single Day”, a driving song about a girl, and a slower one, “Three Days Wiser”, a slow dusty number with organ keys and a cool bit of heavier blues guitar soloing.
Mostly when I listen to this record it’s just casual background music, but my interest spikes when the band step up the tempo and attack their instruments mid-album with “Riot Riot”. Brocade changed the track-order for this album for it’s digital release by putting “Riot Riot” to track one, which is probably a good thing because it is the most obvious stand-out track on the album and represents the most obvious direction with which the band should be channeling their focus: into charging, high-tempo alt rock, replete with those Albertan country boy licks. However, while “Riot Riot” is the obvious choice for a stand-out, the actual best track on this album is the hidden gem “Better Than This”. With “Better Than This”, singer/guitarist Todd Stewart dials back his vocals to a refrained, sullen tone and is joined by his band mates who harmonise over a piano and some light percussion – it works really well, creating a song with some real sentiment and tenderness. It’s the artistic stand-out moment of the record. Done right, simpler songs like this this make a much bigger and more lasting impression than the cliche amped-up, sugar-rush ‘chargers’. I’m not sure if Brocade could get away with making a full album of forlorn piano-accompanied numbers but if they build their catalogue to include more songs with this kind of unmasked emotion then they could really grow to become a band of note.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Internet link: Brocade
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