Victor Bravo - Hammer Meets Fire (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Victor Bravo

Hammer Meets Fire (2009)


Aside from their name, on paper, Victor Bravo sounds like a pretty viable musical experiment: You take one part guitar progressions, tones and a drumming style reminiscent of Hüsker Dü and you mix it with vocal melodies ripped out of the garage and glam rock playbook. It's hard to deny that those things make for a pretty solid rock 'n' roll/punk listening experience. Somewhere in the execution, however, the two styles end up mixing like oil and water or vampires and chest hair rather than beer and pizza. Remember how after the Dü gained some national clout there were a ton of alternative rock bands aping their style but they'd have the occasional flair to things that seemed slightly contrived or over-dramatic, leaving hints of cock rock and a sound that would one day spawn Nickelback? You kinda get whiffs of that on Hammer Meets Fire.

Victor Bravo actually perform best when they abandon much of the Bob Mould influence in favour of a late '70s power-pop sound à la the Buzzcocks, like on the short burst of "Transparent" or the band's rallying cry against the high-consumption world we sometimes find ourselves in on "Into Debt." On "Scary Mary," you really see how vocalist/guitarist Collin Daniels tries to stretch a garage punk snot and swagger over music that just won't give. "Spin Cycles" is the most straight-ahead garage tune on the album with its cymbal crash/kick stomp and tale of a rough-and-tumble relationship. Not surprisingly, "Spin Cycles" is also the clear weak spot of the album; its inclusion would make sense if the band was somehow was looking to temper their poppier and softer moments with a little more obvious muscle but it just isn't needed here. Despite all the Dü /Sugar musical reference points, Victor Bravo are much stronger when they are lashing out a society they don't seem to understand ("Better Lives," "God Bless the USA") rather than playing the scorned lover.

Somewhere inside Hammer Meets Fire there is a great punk rock record; the songs are catchy, defiant and the playing is obviously talented and inspired. Victor Bravo just follow too many stylistic dead ends and focus a little too much on style as opposed to just going with what sounds natural when you hear them. The record, which was co-produced by Rival Schools' Ian Love, certainly sounds good, but very few bands can completely pull off being a two-piece and make it sound as big as a three- or four-piece band, and so far Victor Bravo isn't one of those bands. Still, there is some really solid stuff here for a debut LP and much to look forward to in the band's future. You should definitely check this album out if you are a garage punk/power-pop fanatic looking for something different.

Hammer Meets Fire was digitally released in November 2009 but received a physical release this past April.