The Brakes

L-R Marc Beatty Bass Alex White Drums Eamon Hamilton Guitar & Vocals Tom White Guitar
In 2002, the abovementioned individuals formed a band called Brakes. They played live whenever they could, which wasn't so often because they all played in other bands. But they played anyway. Sometimes Eamon played alone, acoustically. In Iceland, Georg and Orri from Sigur Ros stood in as backing band. In 2004, Tugboat - a subsidiary of Rough Trade Records - offered to release a single. Brakes repaired to Mockin' Bird Studio and nailed down three tracks, including Pick Up The Phone, clocking in at 28 seconds. A video, shot by a friend, appeared on MTV. They decided to tour the UK. In 2005 Rough Trade offered to release an album and so Brakes trooped along to Metropolis Studios for seven days. With Iain Gore in control, an album was recorded live to two-inch tape in five days and mixed in two days. No computers were employed in the endeavor. Just after Valentines' Day, Give Blood was mastered. On the 4th of July 2005, Brakes gave blood to an anemic music scene, littered with the corpses of impotent, underfed, lank-haired, unapologetically derivative, skinny-jeaned, indie-rock no-marks vomiting punk cliches over the first three rows of static, disinterested punters. They delivered 28.8 minutes of literate, humorous, incendiary country-punk and summarily trounced the competition. 9 second polemics on the Vice President of the United States of America [Cheney] sat alongside genuinely beautiful love songs [You're So Pretty] while 6 second odes to punctuation [Comma Comma Comma Full Stop] gave way to moving denouncements of friends who'd lost all sight of morality [I Can't Stand To Stand Beside You]. But Brakes are an open, inclusive bunch and so there was room for songs first performed by Johnny Cash and June Carter [Jackson] and The Jesus & Mary Chain [Sometimes Always] while All Nite Disco Party and The Most Fun documented fondly remembered outdoor raves when MDMA actually had some effect. All this was juxtaposed with furious raging at British and American foreign policy [Pick Up The Phone] and more furious - and hilarious - raging at coked-up, name-dropping hipsters [Heard About Your Band and Hi How Are You]. As the album ascended countless 'Best of the year' lists, heads began to turn toward them. They continued to play live, journeying the length of the British Isles, and to Ireland and east to the European continent, leaving in their wake a reputation for incendiary live performances. Sometimes shambolic, often breathtaking, always arresting, always entertaining. While they were camped out at 2006's South by South West event in Austin, TX, they were introduced to Stuart Sikes, who'd produced Cat Power and engineered White Blood Cells by a band called White Stripes. They laid down a version of a new song, Cease & Desist [in Butthole Surfers' studio] and decided on their return to Blightly to head back Stateside and record the album with Sikes at the House of David studio in Nashville, TN. They set up home in a frat-flat in the city's Vanderbilt University and did what they could do avoid the jocks and the freshers drinking cocktails in the pool, preferring to mix their own Bloody Marys at 8am, making good use of the contents of the owner's fridge, while studiously avoiding the mountain of men's fitness magazines strewn around. While not at work, they found time to play a couple of shows at Grimey's record shop, avail themselves of breakfast at Pancake Pantry and dodge the Great American Country artists' tour buses. The recording of The Beatific Visions differed from that of Give Blood in many ways. The first album was almost spat out, with 13 of the 16 backing tracks recorded in one day and the only thing overdubbed a solitary lap-steel part. There was an intensity, an urgency about the proceedings. Plus they knew the songs inside out because they'd spent the best part of 18 months playing them live, so there was no cause to chin-stroke. By contrast in Nashville, some of the songs were written from scratch, or from half-formed ideas one of the four brought to the table, pieced together, shaped, arranged, added to, subtracted from, generating an excitement and nervousness informed by the unknown and the potential of what might be. Brakes were pleasantly surprised with the results. While the subject matter is drawn from a similar well as Give Blood, it's altogether more specific in its condemnation of certain global events and situations. Marc explains; I like to think of this album as the soundtrack to a great battle between good and evil where the world almost cracks in half, sucking everyone into a life of eternal darkness and misery. There's so much fucked-up shit going on in this world that it's hard not to pass comment on it in our music. But as much as it's important to us to write about that kind of stuff, there's a lot of love and romance in there too. And so, Brakes returned to Brighton, except Marc, who headed north to Glasgow. They returned to a music scene littered with the corpses of the aforementioned lank-haired indie-rockers. They returned with The Beatific Visions. 28.9 minutes of literate country-punk. Angrier, lovelier, funnier, more insightful, cementing Brakes reputation as one of the most vital bands around at a time when erudite social commentary is needed as much as a row of tequila shots among good friends. It ranges from intensely personal songs of love lost and painfully remembered [No Return] to diatribes against religious fervor and the loss of the presumption of innocence [Hold Me In The River] to Bulgakov influenced observations of current geo-politics [Margarita]. Sometimes such sentiments are wrapped around riotous, deliriously entertaining, grinning ejections of clanging guitars and pounding drums [the soon-to-be-live-classic Porcupine or Pineapple or the souped-up, organ-laced, marvelously unhinged Spring Chicken] but there's always room for sentimentally and genuine love in the world of Brakes, with Beatific Visions', If I Should Die Tonight and Isabel displaying their tender side. The great bands of our time, those deserving of our unqualified love and respect and sometimes our hyperbole, are those bands who take their influences, ingest them, produce something genuinely unique and crucially, sound like no one but themselves. Ladies and gentlemen; Brakes.
  1. RT-228
    The Brakes
    Give Blood

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