Breton - Other People's Problems (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Other People's Problems (2012)


As someone who spends an unhealthy amount of time seeking out new bands and music, Breton turned out to be a rare commodity in 2012 for me: A band I was witnessing live for the first time with little-to-no background info (several weeks before this show, I'd read a review of the band's full-length debut in question, Other People's Problems, in a recent issue of AP, but it never came to mind). They were supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks, themselves touring America behind their second straight winning collection of tracks, last year's In the Pit of the Stomach. As it goes for anyone who appreciates art, basically, we tend to enjoy something more if we can put it in context. Live, it was not hard to do that with Breton: These were scrappy kids in their early 20s churning out highly danceable, electronic and math-addled rock that reminded me rather directly of Foals (more specifically, their most recent proper LP, Total Life Forever). Hell, as a mere 60 miles separate the bands in their native United Kingdom between South London and Oxford, it didn't seem far-fetched to think there must be some sort of intention behind the similarities.

If there's any worship of one of Oxford's best musical exports, however, it's toned down considerably on Other People's Problems. And while that makes it harder to put in context, it certainly doesn't detract much from the overall experience Breton deliver here. While there may be some discernible differences in the accents the more cultured than myself might pick up on, vocalist/guitarist/synth op/etc. Roman Rappak does carry that brusque yearn employed by Foals' Yannis Philippakis. That's where the similarity is most obvious, but Breton largely establish their own identity outside of it. Problems is chock full of sparkling synth splashes, samples, and even harp.

I realize I've talked a lot about Foals and not as much about Breton through those first two paragraphs, with lots of somewhat backhanded "but"s. Sorry, guys. There's plenty of what seems to define Breton themselves on Other People's Problems and its beat-laden strut. Rappak strains rough melodies that somehow gel sensibly with the band's grimy kaleidoscope of sound. In the first half alone, it complements the heavily sampled intro of opener "Pacemaker" and orchestral (string section)/R&B (soulful vocals sped-up Chipmunk-style) touches of the almost mournful "2 Years" and teasing crescendo climb of "Wood and Plastic." There's a groove in "Governing Correctly" that seems to lift the synth line from "Thriller", while "Interference" and "Ghost Note" follow with the record's most respectively omnipresent hooks (and a whole lot of fuzz, static and bleating synth on the latter). There's also that grinding keyboard tone in "Oxides" my memory associates best with very specific songs by similarly experimental rock troubadours, like the Blood Brothers' "Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon", One Day as a Lion's "If You Fear Dying", and more recently, Glassjaw's "Vanilla Poltergeist Snake." "Jostle" begins with the most dance-friendly beat of all tracks on here (save "Edward the Confessor"), but then builds an upward, almost post-rock-nodding arc that provides one of the record's most enchanting moments before abruptly cutting itself off.

This album seems like a long time coming. Breton had released four straight EPs since forming in 2007, but writing and recording in consistently short bursts of material has seemed to pay off: Other People's Problems is a fairly engaging debut with plenty of creative and successful ideas–regardless of how it relates to your lineage of tastes.

Other People's Problems