All Through Paradise - The Braves (Spooky Records)
You might not get it first listen. You almost certainly will if you see them.
Remember when you used to follow a local band? Thought the world of them, and they took you all over the city, into dark corners you’d never normally go? Pubs filled with sad, bitter old men?
Everywhere The Braves go around Melbourne, there’s a crew of their fans who follow them. So even out in the tedium of the bored burbs, when The Braves play, the dancefloor is filled with dancing shapes. And the locals get it, and join in. And when The Braves go back, there’s more people.
What’s to get? It’s only rock ’n’ roll, right? Nah. This is … gate-opening stuff. Okay? Now. Hands up all those who really remember the pre-punk and the immediate punk stuff waaaay back in 73-78.
Riiiight. Some of you are definitely fibbing.
Now look. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I wasn’t there in the ’60s. I wasn’t even eight by the time they were over. But had I been more or less adult-ish, I would’ve realised that a seismic shift was occurring.
Regarding the ’60s movements, things sort of flumped after about ’69, and the world found itself with pontificating rock stars who also happened to enjoy wearing glitter makeup and ladies scarves, and telling us we should give peace a chance while we shot smack…
No better than so many of the underground who set the controls for the heart of many small suns… remember your first, vivid reaction to Richard Hell and the Voidoids? Or the shock of the No Wave stuff?
Sure you do. The Voidoids’ first LP was so huge and spiky, angular and jabbing at the time (yeah no yeah these days I skip tracks. I do) was so significant. One of the reasons was that the band deliberately shoved our noses into cleverly structured songs which sounded broken up and fractured. That aspect, somewhat watered down, simplified, became part of the punk ‘sound’.
That’s what The Braves do. No song sounds alike. No song is straightforward. It’s like they’re reworking all the tropes and musical similes rock requires. Some might call them punk, but punk is so lame. If anything, they’re hoovering up music from everywhere, and bolting it all together in a way which captures your attention.
So, no, thankfully, The Braves aren’t punk. Nor post-punk (whatever that means). But by fuck there’s a lot of what drove punk - and what came after - inside them, shoving them forward, trampling our expectations and making me bop around the room.
At this point I contacted the band and asked them about this.
This is from Kelly, whose email includes the acronym LAMF. Kelly has taste.
I-94 Bar: You seem to have an attitude of never repeating the same musical style per song ... just how deliberate is that, and why..?
It's reflective of our the massive consumption of information, I guess. I just listened to Roland Kirk, Gloria Jones, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and strange Japanese classical on a bus trip by putting an iPod on shuffle…
Maybe it's iconoclastic to the album form? Maybe it's a way to update it? But the way we listen to music can be just as influential to the music itself. If you want garage you can get 30 Ramones songs in as many minutes. We're trying to make our own sound.
We're aware of doing something different or challenging but … it's just how we write. We don't premeditate a succession of styled songs.
Then Jesse weighed in:
We’re influenced heavily by everything around us, and I feel myself constantly being shaped by new experiences. Excitement, something new, a rush up your spin, chasing it, you know? Spew it all out into a song... Each song has a different story and is trying to create its on atmosphere, hopefully that turns people on, makes them feel a new sensation or maybe people will just think what the fuck is this band on about.
We all want to be individuals, we stand alone from the crowd, have our own sound. I believe we’re slowly coming into that; ‘All Through Paradise’ is us coming into our own I reckon. Hopefully people understand this and don’t try to slap a label on our foreheads.
Well, that shut me up, didn’t it? That figures, in a way. There’s certainly aspects of jazz blurred into their structures and occasional snatches of tunes, but you could also say there’s a strong '60s element, or a marked but half-buried metal aspect (remember when you discovered Joy Division’s first incarnation, and realised how much they owed to metal?)… The Braves are somehow in disguise, somehow utterly revealing.
I-94 Bar: You love playing gigs. It's obvious. But... why? isn't it a huge struggle? Even in the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne?
We're merely exchanging long Proton strings… if you can think of a better way we'd like to hear it.
Jesse: “… a huge struggle is amusing when you put it into a bigger picture.”
I-94 Bar: What kind of crowds are you getting? What's the response like..?
Depends on size doesn’t it, the smaller the crowd the greater the cynicism with a local band to foreign ears. With a big crowd energy is large, very large cats are moving about, geared up and letting out whatever it is they need to expel. We got a strong crew who come to the bigger shows and they are all types which sends a real great message it's for everyone and anyone not a generalised or localised crowd.
Jesse: A miscellaneous fun bag of trash, the girls usually give the guys a run for their money, I wouldn’t fuck with ‘em.
The songs, then.
“Black Mass” is a prelude not just to the album itself, but a kind of mission statement. How many bands do you know who have the guts of three songs, but put them all into one song…?
“Lonesome Town” - not the Ricky Nelson song, far from it - finds us gripped by carefully structured raw rock - and this is where I was reminded forcibly of the Voidoids. As I say, tho, they’re nothing like them - there’s just an overlapping similarity of intents. And that’s great.
“Nah”, and “Death from Above” roll through us like a pair of freight trains. Comparison spotters might note a bit of a nod to one of Rowland’s early styles. But this is unfair. It’s the music, the modernity of it, even though it reminds me of things I’ve not heard in years.
“Intertwined with Dust” is quieter, more reflective… but there’s really no let up, the constantly flicking tempos and tones maintain our attention. Black Arabesque starts deceptively, alters and drags us along by the nose, up and down, faster and slower.
“Comedown Kid” is a huge, swaggering beast, almost straightforward … it’s epic. “Magic” comes next, a stumbling sweetie in search of lost love.
‘Beaches of Berlin’ well… you’ll find yourself dancing to this twitchy creature, lurching toward us … ‘meet me by the Wall baby’… I love the way the song rears, rowls, alters and drags us around like we’re dirt. Great stuff.
“Howl” - not the Ginsberg opus thank fuck - is angry, powerful, broken-up stuff. Again, there’s so much here…
“Hocust” ends the album (have I spelt that right? ‘Hocus’?), and again, it’s a sharp shift away from what went before. The selection of the tracks is smart; they tumble over each other, but we’re drawn, drawn, drawn into them. Slow burning, grand, rather marvellous.
The Braves are doing what they can to get project their music forward into the future and into your home. They ain’t a bunch of twonks plonking away on a lonely stage. There’s visceral energy here, roughness, tenderness, regret, anger, self-aware humour … there’s just so much going on here. Loki Lockwood’s production is crisp and detailed and that just brings the band up, up, up.
Remember why you used to follow that favourite local band around the city, hoping they’d have success in the broader world…? That’s right, you felt you could watch them over and over, and still discover new things in what they did. Some bands you can spend the whole set observing the drummer, or the bassist… you know? The Braves are a band like this. You love them, you want to follow them to every gig, and you get the cds and lps as par for the course. Like breathing…
“All Through Paradise” belongs on your turntable, in your car and in your best friend’s hands. The Braves belong in your town, on your stages, filling your venues with people behaving stupidly.