Throughout their career, New York’s new-wave punk rock act The Bravery have been haloed by “Next Big Thing” finger-pointing from sources as varied as Rolling Stone, and The Village Voice (the VV of yore—not the shell of that moniker than remains today). They didn’t do too excellent a job making good on their savior assertions with their passable self-titled debut from a while back, anchored by the auspicious but forgettable single “An Honest Mistake.” I remember saying at the time how over-hyped they were, and how crummy and uninspired their sound was, myself.
With Las Vegas’ The Killers rise to fame, The Bravery’s reputation became all the more dubious when a feud between the two bands (which turned out to be not much more than a publicity stunt) thrust The Bravery into the limelight, and had them positioned as nothing more than poseurs riding the new-wave dance rock coattails of Flowers & Co. into fleeting fame and fortune. On that same note, the victory between the two bands most assuredly went to The Killers—what with their trillion-selling debut Hot Fuss being ten times more enjoyable that The Bravery.
Now, with the release of The Bravery’s second album—and The Killers Sam’s Town resting on shelves, as well—round two is poised to begin. As anyone that has listened to Sam’s Town knows, it is scattershot, kind-of directionless, and chock full of hollow Springsteen posturing. I was expecting even less from The Bravery’s follow-up, The Sun & The Moon, but my oh my was I very, very wrong. I first caught a sniff of The Sun & The Moon via the catchy, hyper-literate first single “Time Won’t Let Me Go” when it popped up on the satellite radio station I listen to religiously (funnily enough, it came on directly after The Killers “When You Were Young”). I dug the tune immensely, and was more than a little surprised to find out that it was none other that The Bravery who was responsible for it. Before long I got my hands on a reviewable copy of the complete album, and I’m proud to say that it hasn’t left my stereo yet.
With The Sun & The Moon, The Bravery have made good on the lofty expectations placed on them when they first hit the scene. This is one of the best rock albums to drop this year—and has more than earned a place on my eventual year-end best of list. They take all the best from their influences—The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Strokes, Depeche Mode, a dash of Kaiser Chiefs-esque Brit-rock—and pile on a butt-load of hooks and make it their own. And boy, does it work.
There isn’t a weak spot to be found, as they flow seamlessly from loose guitar rock, a dash of synthesizer, an acoustic ballad or two; everything just feels so much tighter and more focused than on their first album. My advice: Check out “”Time Won’t Let Me Go,” if you dig it (and how could you not), then you’ll love this disc.
Kudos to The Bravery, as you have made me eat my words. Not to mention, you’ve left The Killers with a bloody nose, face down in the boxing ring.
I can hear the referee now: “…7…8…9…”
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.