At this point in the post-punk/new-wave/dance-rock movement, it has become clear that there is a simple formula for solid mediocrity: surround a few robotic Casio loops with scorching guitars and boys in girls’ jeans and name the whole enterprise “The” something. This equation makes for a decent accompaniment to a few Miller High Life ponies in a crowded ballroom, but it does not necessarily make for a great record. In so many cases the songs merely serve as vehicles for the overall sound, rather than the opposite. How blissful, then, is the self-titled debut LP from the Bravery from New York. It’s a taut selection of seven gleaming gems that finally gets the order right, with the retro electronica playing the supporting role for some truly gorgeous melodies and keenly observed lyrics. Innovation ensues.
On opener “An Honest Mistake,” keyboard wizard John Conway and drummer Anthony Burulcich set a schizoid beat that has understandably earned the group major U.K. club play. But something far more interesting begins to develop as Sam Endicott’s lead vocals soar into an anthemic stratosphere that few bands would dare approach. This isn’t just a new New Order (though that influence is obvious); with brooding bass lines, militaristic drums and expansive, utterly empathetic vocals, this is all that was great about early U2, but with addictive dance beats and piercing synths that the boys from Dublin never had. Other tracks, including “Tyrant” and “Unconditional,” the latter of which was released as an EP in November and is destined for greatness, swell with the eloquent melodrama of Boy or War.
In no way, however, does The Bravery merely linger in the broad shadows of its influences. The wise, searching vocals stem from a contemporary source: Endicott’s experience living in New York during and after 9/11. It was the need to deal with such a new world that inspired the band’s name, and the enduring influence of the early ’80s on this LP lies not only in the profusion of synth beats, but also in that era’s unabashedly earnest and intimate albums, which could be both political and personal.
The post-9/11 world has not been one of total fear so much as wondering whether we should be afraid, and that is what the Bravery captures so brilliantly. On the second track, “Fearless,” Endicott shrewdly depicts these dual feelings of vague dread and defiance, singing, “Something wicked this way comes/ The best time I ever had/ Waiting around for something bad.” Times are tough, but dancing is still allowed, and the Bravery intends to help out with both.