Brakes - Tommy's Bar, Cardiff
Cardiff, February 2009. Bleak.
Outside snow is swirling around the first victims of the credit crunch; desperate, wild-eyes gaze deep from within brownfield cardboard shelters. Thank God, then, for Brakes who launch into their set with frontman Eamon storming the stage pineapple in hand and dressed, apparently, in a 1970’s Action Man space cadet outfit. Suddenly the freezing and destitute seem a distant memory and this is space year 2009 where everything is groovy and reality is forced to sip a warm shandy in the corner.
The pineapple is tossed to the crowd, a working example of eating yourself fitter - what other band gives you at least one of your recommended 5 a day? We should, I suppose, expect nothing less from Eamon Hamilton, an erstwhile member of British Sea Power, for whom eccentricity is a badge of honour. Not that Brakes are treading on the toes of his former band, this performance is tight, dynamic and powerful and there's no time wasted on ethereal chords and wistful choruses, although, listen closely, and you'll hear the subtle intricacies of Tom White's guitar lines which set Brakes apart from the traditional power-punk pack, much as Andy Summers put the Police into their own league in the post punk era.
Try and put this lot into a pigeon hole and you'll be scratching your head for a week as the set veers from alt country, through 30 second hardcore explosions ("Comma, Comma, Full Stop") and perfect pop, the latter best captured in forthcoming single "Hey, Hey". Highlights include the punding disco inferno of "All Night Disco Party" and a reworked version of "Cheney", with fans being asked to revise their songsheets to reflect the depature of the Bush administration; they play it twice but it still lasts less than a minute. We also, quite bizarrely, get treated to a cover of Johnny and June Carter-Cash's "Jackson" which shouldn't work but defies all logic and brings even the doubters onside. They depart, leaving the crowd hungry for more and thankfully they'll be back in the Spring.
Britain, February 2009. Bleak, but the green shoots of recovery are emerging. Britain needs the Brakes.