The Braves - Love & Mercy (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Braves

Love & Mercy (2005)

Johann's Face

How many times have you been watching TV, and a movie trailer comes on proclaiming some romantic comedy or children's movie starring Eddie Murphy to be "the feelgood hit of the year?" If you've heard that half as many times as I have, then sick of it doesn't even begin to describe your distaste for the phrase. Unfortunately, however, that's the description I'm offering for the Braves' Love & Mercy. It is a feel-good album, and there's no point during the 9 songs that you are subjected to Jula Roberts crying, or Bruce Willis trying to show his sensitive side. This throwback to late 80's and early 90's college rock is nothing breathtaking, but anybody who enjoys a good pop-rock tune once in a while should give this some spins.

What I find to be most engaging about this is the overall sense of maintaining a good melody. There's a definition to each song, one that allows them to each be enjoyed individually, rather than leaving you thinking that each song is overly similar to the one before it. The vocals provided are somewhat reminiscent of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, but the singer does have his own identity, and each styling works off its respective song. Whether it be upbeat and poppy, such as in one of the album's stronger tracks, "My Witness To The Ghost," or more calming and subdued with "Meet Me At The River." The album gets better as it goes on, with lead singer Joseph Reina really putting his feet on the ground. The vocals have such an earnest and emotional quality to them that it accompanies the hooks and melodic guitar better than any other style of vocals could.

The vocals can't stand on their own, however, and the rest of the members of the Braves accentuate Reina with their melodic yet rough around the edges style. The production benefits this CD well, without ever sounding too overdone. Some of the guitar lines and chord progressions are actually pretty impressive, without ever really having a chance to fall into a groove and make the songs boring. Even in "Meet Me At The River," the album's slowest track, the guitars have a dissonant but calming quality to them that makes the song as engaging as any of the more upbeat found on here.

For anybody who's still holding on to that burnt out candle that is early 90's college rock, this is a trip in a direction most bands are heading away from, but it's done well enough to make you cherish those times you actually liked Toad The Wet Sprocket. Love & Mercy is nothing you'll still be raving about in July, but for the time being, this is a solid effort from a band making music for a forgotten genre.