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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