Review of The The Brute Chorus' self-titled album.
Any band willing to record their debut album live should be given some kudos at the very least. The Brute Chorus has done just that here, so in the first instance respect is what they will get. Nevertheless, usually a live album sounds, well, live. This self-titled album somehow doesn't tick that box, but does show exactly what The Brute Chorus have to offer without the usual computer wizardry that so often ruins an album.
First track 'Hercules', starts a mythology theme that continues throughout the album. It is raw but catchy and signals that the band are at their happiest performing to a crowd.
'She Was Always Cool' is just over four minutes of cow bell, handclaps and bass. And maybe a kazoo. Combine these with James Steel's lead vocals and you actually find yourself wanting to have been at the live recording, just to get a better idea of the whole performance.
Steel's vocals stray into Jack White territory in 'Send Me a Message'; no bad comparison, but when he finds his 'own' voice in tracks such as 'Nebuchadnezzar' and 'Blind Ulysses' it is an all together more interesting affair. 'Blind Ulysses' and 'Love's Chain' are the two more musically restrained offerings, with gentle guitars and supportive backing vocals.
The running themes throughout the album, such as Greek mythology, pivotal historical events and forgotten love sometimes result in lyrics too clever for their own good. It will take more than one listen to get all the references, and even then the religious references, such as the tale of Jonah and his rescue from the whale, might not register with non-believers.
The Brute Chorus are an intriguing prospect. Whilst the album doesn't scream 'live', even though the periodic encouragement from the crowd assures you it is, recording it in this manner is an inspired move; if only because it will make listeners want to see the band with their own eyes for more of the same. The Brute Chorus obviously have no fear of performing and that confidence could get them talked about favourably. The band would probably benefit from more studio time; take away some of the unimpressive rougher edges, cut out Steel's occasional faux-American accent and you would have a much stronger debut.