Plumbiferous Media

Stir the Blood - The Bravery

Dec 3rd 2009
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Stir the Blood - The BraveryThe Bravery
Stir the Blood
Score: 24

NYC rock band The Brav­ery was found­ed in 2003 by Sam Endi­cott and John Con­way, who met when they were class­mates at Vas­sar. The band released its self-titled debut LP two years lat­er, fol­lowed by the fair­ly suc­cess­ful The Sun and the Moon - both received with mixed crit­i­cal response. Its newest album, Stir the Blood, takes every­thing that was good about the band’s last two albums (for their many flaws) and toss­es it out, opt­ing instead for what most­ly con­sti­tutes a thir­ty-five minute study in banality.

Stir the Blood is not entire­ly worth­less. Glim­mers of hope spring up through the album, espe­cial­ly in the ear­li­er sec­tions of tracks. The open­ing track begins with what would be a rel­a­tive­ly stan­dard alt-rock gui­tar and drum line, with the inter­est­ing excep­tion of hav­ing the drum’s pri­ma­ry stress­es in the sec­ondary stress beats of the gui­tar line, and vice ver­sa. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, only about half of the track actu­al­ly fol­lows this pat­tern, the rest is noth­ing more than stan­dard alt-rock. Addi­tion­al­ly, “Slow Poi­son” occa­sion­al­ly diverges from its sim­i­lar­ly gener­ic sound to pro­vide some nice descend­ing sequences. The album, which also severe­ly lacks track diver­si­ty (“She’s So Bend­able” and “Sug­arpill,” the only tru­ly dif­fer­ent tracks, are both quite weak), strin­gent­ly fol­lows this pat­tern of gener­ic bore­dom with a light sprin­kling of what here pass­es for excit­ing moments.

From the first minute of Stir the Blood, Sam Endi­cot­t’s vocals are best described as over­wrought. Full of the con­stant empha­sis that would maybe work well in bet­ter music (think the Kaiser Chiefs), Endi­cot­t’s voice man­ages to take any poten­tial they might have had and pour it direct­ly into sound­ing as dull as pos­si­ble. There real­ly isn’t a sin­gle point on Stir the Blood with espe­cial­ly notable vocals; rather, the vocals flow with con­stant tor­pid­i­ty. The best that can per­haps be said about the vocals of Stir the Blood (oth­er than, per­haps, their util­i­ty as a sleep-aid) is that they fit in quite well with the every­thing else The Brav­ery has done to con­struct an unevent­ful album.

Giv­en the lack of appeal inher­ent to Endi­cot­t’s vocals, it’s not exact­ly sur­pris­ing that what he’s singing isn’t much more than gener­ic either. Every track seems like The Brav­ery is des­per­ate­ly try­ing to be edgy (see: “Hate­fuck”), but it gen­er­al­ly comes off as an unqual­i­fied fail­ure. “Oh baby we are wast­ed in this time / Some­day if we try / I know we could fly, fly, fly, fly, fly” does not real­ly qual­i­fy as inspired or even inter­est­ing writ­ing. Instead, it’s quite irri­tat­ing - espe­cial­ly as this seems to be an extreme­ly typ­i­cal line on Stir the Blood. By the end of the album, the few lines that stand out through the drudgery of the album are more humor­ous than any­thing else: the album ends with the line “Oh sug­ar pill, I wan­na eat you up.”

While the instru­men­tals are not in gen­er­al unique among instru­men­tals in this genre, they are at least some­what pow­er­ful and occa­sion­al­ly even a bit catchy. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the vocals, when­ev­er they choose to share their pres­ence with the lis­ten­er, serve only to dull the album. This of course, is not ter­ri­bly sur­pris­ing, with the vocals gen­er­al­ly rang­ing in tone qual­i­ty some­where between Mod­est Mouse and The Nation­al (depend­ing on the track), only extreme­ly bor­ing. Addi­tion­al­ly, the instru­ments have the pecu­liar habit of dumb­ing down their lines when­ev­er the vocals pop in, for exam­ple, on “Hate­fuck,” which uses three nice­ly inter­act­ing lines when­ev­er Endi­cott isn’t singing, and absolute­ly gener­ic instru­men­tals when­ev­er he is.

All in all, Stir the Blood is sim­ply a bor­ing album. Most of the tracks are utter­ly gener­ic, and those that aren’t include the botched slow tracks of the album, as well as “I Am Your Skin,” which places all too much empha­sis on the weak vocals, and “The Spec­ta­tor,” which odd­ly enough seems to bor­row a melod­ic synth line from a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, rather pop­u­lar track, albeit with a dif­fer­ent rhythm. As unin­ter­est­ing as it is, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Stir the Blood does not, in fact, have even the remotest chance of stir­ring any­one’s blood, except maybe through wast­ing the lis­ten­er’s time. It’s not exact­ly dif­fi­cult at this point to find sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter gener­ic alt-rock to lis­ten to.

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