Carry On The Con - The Braves (Spooky Records)
Another day, another of those astonishing records from Melbourne label Spooky. The Braves, now on either their fourth or fifth LP, show no signs of that "running out of ideas" thing which so many bands suffer. On the contrary.
In fact, you might not like The Braves. Face it, you play what you're used to, or variations of it. Partly, I accept, because what's common on the mainstream formats is such awful rotten sludge, but partly because... you're all used to the ordinary.
Not my fault you no longer have an adventurous bone in your body, you old fart. And as for you young 'uns who haven't yet worked out that just because it's new doesn't mean it's any good...
"Carry on the Con" rates five bottles - possibly more. A chum of mine was trying to get a handle on The Braves recently, and looked at me in a bewildered sort of way and said, "They don't sound like anyone else".
Well, no, they don't. Most bands sound either like someone else or every other bastard band you're ever heard, but The Braves have clearly gone out of their way to make themselves unique. Now that The Fall doesn't exist anymore, The Braves are one of the few bands whose privacy I'd like to invade: I really want to watch one of their rehearsals, especially as they work out a new song.
Oh, sure, occasionally they remind me of other bands. But that's mostly coincidence. I mean, early Wall of Voodoo (remember when they were going to be a band which made film scores? around the time of their first EP? No? Dickhead); Queen; later Birthday Party; early Feelies... hell, early Wire... but like I say, it ain't intentional and I doubt you'll think the same.
From the first moment, they tease your expectations, muck about with what you think should come next (rather than provide what you expect) and, in a perverse way, mock you at the same time as drawing you in. Okay, they've always done that, but 'Carry on the Con' is probably their most lopsidedly commercial offering to date. It's also a sonic environment reminiscent of outfits like the Gun Club, the Voidoids or some of the No-Wavers.
For a three-piece, the Braves have a big, spacious sound; Watson's guitar being stand-out and perfectly matched by Bolt on bass and Leversha, "the last outcast in town" on drums. There are nine songs, they're all bloody good and of course I have my favourites (as will you). This album is a bit more angular than previous outings, and it has a grim swing to it.
The songs are: "Hanging Church", "Lifting of the Veil", "Side by Side", "Big Sleep", "How the Money Rolls In", "People", "Gilda", "Behind the Red Door", "The Good Son".
The more alert of you will see that list and think you're recognising two covers: one by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and one by the Only Ones (which Rowland S. Howard used to cover). Nope, they're just areas of commonality; "The Big Sleep" is a then-common term for death famously used by Raymond Chandler. Yeah, Braves are in fine company.
No, screw you. I'm not going to go through each song, or what they're like, or why they're so interesting that they merit repeat listens while you try to figure out all the deceptively clever changes and shifts. In the weeks I've been listening to this my favourite tracks have altered. Which is not how it's s'posed to be. Some songs grow like weeds, others are more like a creeper, unobtrusively getting inside your soul like iodine into a glass of water.
"Carry on the Con" is brutal, delicate, considered, emotional and ... yeah, you'll find yourself on the dancefloor, very drunk and hurling your knickers at the band.
Craig Barman? Don't see the Braves, don't listen to them.
I don't want to lose my respect for you.