(Russian Winter Records, 2015)
Remember that Mogwai album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will? Well, the same thing can be said of punk rock, a one-time flash-in-the pan that went on to become a genuine phenomenon with a lasting legacy; long live punk! That’s definitely a truth Este Leon and Ric Gordon of Braggers have embraced with their lo-fi, lo-frills, lo-fuss, punk-glam fusion. As a fan of The Guess Who, The Clash, The Ramones, certain eras of David Bowie’s career, and the general vibe surrounding Alex Cox’s Repo Man, I welcome this album with open heart, and I feel it won’t be long before others are excited about it as I am.
The album starts straight-up basement punk, with “Brighter Day.” The Bandcamp info boasts that this song is destined to become a punk classic, and I’m inclined to agree. The melody is straightforward, but also very catchy. The lyrics are from the heart, and sung with great sincerity. There’s an earnestness to the refrain that makes it feel like some teenage anthem, in spite of the fact that it’s steeped in a genre nearly fifty years old.
Soon after the opening track though, Este Leon lets loose his glam-rock spirit with track 4, “Kids of Soul.” After that, the genie’s out of the bottle; the rest of the recording gets crazy. Synth build-ups all over. Some really wicked guitar riffs. And all throughout, the earnest, reliable voice of Este Leon, pumping out pure punk gold.
Just to clarify: I’m one of those very attentive music listeners; I take my music-listening time extremely seriously. When I’m sitting down to listen to music, I’m literally sitting down for the express purpose of soaking in a piece of music, with no more distractions than a drink on the table beside me. Especially when I’m giving something its very first listen. So, when I say Braggers is good, I’m not saying they’re decent background music. This band is good. If I were grading this album as an end-of-the-year thesis on punk music, it would be marked “A+; exceeds expectations!” I might even go crazy and give it a “You’re #1!” sticker, if I were feeling generous.
Between the synths, the lo-fi guitar and drums, the solid vocals, and all the memorable little moments that make good music great, such as a sudden change in vocal technique on “White Light,” this is easily one of the best new albums I’ve heard this year.
So, grab onto the first mohawk you see, and ride it all the way to the end of the line, because it will surely be heading directly to Braggers. Get your ears pierced in a dirty bathroom stall, Freaks & Geeks style, because you’re gonna wanna listen to this with as many earholes as you can get your hands on! (That came out wrong. But seriously. LISTEN TO BRAGGERS.)
RIYL: The Clash, Ramones, punk rock in general