Notes on Brass Bed’s the Secret Will Keep You
On paper, I like Brass Bed. It’s not like Brass Bed is a sort of idealized on-paper band for me or anything of that sort, but the idea of a band like Brass Bed is quite appealing to me. After all, I have an appreciation of indie rock spanning from important early genre pioneers like R.E.M. and the Replacements to more contemporary heroes such as Arcade Fire, and Brass Bed is right out of the post-Strokes school of angular guitars, jumpy rhythms, and vocals that radiate detached hipster cool. By all accounts, I should be all over these guys.
And yet… I’m not. I have all of no idea why – it’s not like they do anything wrong, per se – but I just can’t get a lot out of this band. All of the ingredients for something I’d enjoy are there right from the beginning – “Cold Chicory” kicks things off with stabbing guitars and a spacey bridge to change things up – but the execution just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know, maybe it’s because it doesn’t have a very strong hook, or maybe it just feels too perfunctory for my liking, or maybe I feel like too many bands do it better, but there’s something I can’t place about it that doesn’t work for me. “Please Don’t Go” and “I’ll Be There with Bells On” fall in line with this song, and while they’re perfectly decent and perfectly competent, there’s no spark here, I guess. “Bells” is the best of the three, though – the slightly noisy guitars and more-assertive-than-usual vocals do add some life, which I guess is probably what this band is looking for.
Now, let’s give credit where credit is due – this album does get better, or at minimum more varied, as it goes on. There are a couple of nice, retro-flavored surprises here – how “Bullet for You” takes after Pearl Jam’s blues-by-way-of-Hendrix-by-way-of-grunge approach that gave us “Yellow Ledbetter,” how “Back and Forth” translates Brian Wilson’s pocket symphonies to churning guitars (and does so quite nicely – this really is a great song, and I for one would’ve appreciated more like it here) – but there just aren’t enough of these fun detours for my liking, and with the exception of “How to Live in a Bad Dream,” which is a blast, the Strokes-flavored main course isn’t all that exciting to me.
Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that there are two main courses here. See, this is the sort of album where one side is high-energy and the second slows things down a little. “Back and Forth” started this side off nicely, and I can sort of get down with the hazy, trippy, folksy “I Guess I’ll Just Sing,” but things dive right back into pleasant mediocrity with “Suspension of Vision” (cool title aside), and you’d better believe they stay there with “Have to be Fine.”
I have nothing particularly against Brass Bed. They have a generally likeable sound and give off good vibes and all that. Maybe not the potential for greatness, but at least those of pretty-goodness, and there’s plenty of room in this world for pretty-goodness, too. Maybe next time around.