On paper, you wouldn't think this would work.
Five drunk but quite talented men from the East Coast get together in the post-9/11 fatalistic "we could die tomorrow so what the hell" attitude and decide to mix the influences of their punk background with the electronic noise created by their keyboardist John Conway - before anybody had even heard of Brandon Flowers.
And yet, The Bravery is an accomplished and exciting crossover record that is so 2005 it hurts, and is actually better than the Killers' Hot Fuss.
Opening track and second single "An Honest Mistake" (written about one of lead vocalist Sam Endicott's seemingly numerous ex-girlfriends) is classy and a great introduction to the album, despite being a little too polished for some people's liking. You start to feel that these guys are onto a good thing, and the feeling continues with the next few tracks - the relatively downbeat twangs of "No Brakes" and "Tyrant" (again about an ex!) contrast well with the thumping self-indugent ego-fest that is "Fearless."
The punk roots begin to rear their heads a little more on "Swollen Summer" (think the Ramones on absinthe having just been handed a synth) and "Public Service Announcement," a fun song that has an awesome backing vocal loop and an excellent hook - listen to it purely for the great guitar solo right at the end. These are followed by the epic melodies of "Out Of Line," possibly the most reminiscent and nostalgic of all the songs.
We reach the now almost-classic first single, "Unconditional," which I hope should need no introduction. In my opinion, it is the best song on the album and should have ended it, because as it is, the CD finishes on a bit of a down note with the enjoyable but relatively uninspiring "The Ring Song" and "Rites Of Spring" and possibly the worst song, "Hot Pursuit."
The Bravery, of course, have recently been surrounded by a fair bit of hype, which in a way is good, because it introduced them to the mainstream circuit, encouraging record sales (which whatever you think is actually not a bad thing if you're in their position) but also means some will not think said hype has been lived up to. And the band may of course self-destruct in their own reputation for being inebriated lotharios. Sam, at least, reveals that there is a little more to him in his lyrics, but with the others it is difficult to tell.
Speaking (or singing) of the lyrics, they are for the most part very good, and Endicott certainly has his own style (that unnerves only me, it would seem - it's very similar to mine) that suits these raw and emotional songs very well. His slightly strangled strains of "I just want / I just want love..." on "Unconditional" sound sincere, and there are some clever lines; "Me and the ocean / Me and the sea / I don't think so / I don't think it was meant to be" ("The Ring Song"), some heart-wrenching ones; "You opened my chest / And put that hurt in my eyes / Now I've got the pain I can turn to / When I wonder if I'm still alive" ("Rites Of Spring") and the obligatory random, hysterical ones; "Stop, drop and roll / You're on fire" (the incessently catchy chorus of "Public Service Announcement").
I have to mention that the basslines are just as good as the lyrics, and a good reason to buy the album in their own right (as well as a good reason to take up bass guitar). True, the band do essentially have two bassists - Endicott used to be a session bassist for hire and played with the Lincoln Conspiracy (apparently - he won't say) along with the band's regular bassist Mike H a.k.a. Dirt.
Left-handed Michael Zakarin's recognisable razor sharp guitar riffs give the music an individual sound that distinguishes the Bravery from their similar sounding peers in the new "rock/synth" movement, and the drumming from Anthony Burulcich is quality too.
So does the Bravery's debut live up to its hype? I think yes. The album is thoroughly exciting and enjoyable on many levels, and is not overly polished (the whole thing was recorded on an old iMac in Sam's apartment for around $7,000, according to NME) whilst still retaining a professional feel. The Bravery have shown themsleves to have a lot of potential (I can't wait for their second offering, and hope to see them live in May) and also that they have a wide appeal, opening them up to pop, rock and punk audiences alike. Widen your perspective on the 2005 music scene, and go buy this album.