Click to hear: “Boxy Music”
You’ll appreciate Brenda’s new album more if you pretend it’s an EP with a bunch of bonus tracks. There’s a solid EP worth of material among these 10 songs, but as a full-length, Fix Your Eyes drags.
First off, take the dirge-y opener, “Ghost Coach,” and move it to the end of the iTunes playlist, so the bright and buoyant rocker “Boxy Music” kicks things off, instead. Ahh, much better. The title track, with its weird lyrics about “pre-fab houses behind the coliseum,” can still follow and be followed by “Hard Pleaser,” which sounds like one of those fevered Feelies songs, the fantastic DJ Moore doing the work of two drummers.
I’d keep “Mom’s Dad” in the mix too, on the strength of its melodies, though its five-and-a-half minutes feel bloated. Likewise, the languorous “House of Grain” has melodies lovely enough to keep and a stately, guitar-thick outro. But with one exception, the rest of the record is B-side grade.
The acoustic ballad “What To Do” is ponderous and indulgent. Lead singer and guitarist Josh Loring steps aside to let keyboardist (and Bollard contributor) Peet Chamberlain sing two numbers. “He lives in a nursing home / I wanna live in a nursing home / I wanna do what the old men do to you,” Chamberlain croons in a thin falsetto on “(Franklin Tower).” I’m not sure if Chamberlain’s trying to be funny or not, but it doesn’t work either way. His other turn at the mic, “Not My Friends,” sounds like an outtake from the first Satellite Lot record, one of Aaron Hautala’s numbers. Its swirly pop doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, but it’s one of the best songs.
The last track, “Jola,” exemplifies the album’s shortcomings. The musical progression during its verses resembles that of an earlier and much better Brenda song, “I’ll Be Dead,” a little too closely. And rather than deliver a killer chorus, the song just simmers for a while, idling in musical neutral, then reverts to the verse part and simmers for over two more minutes before it ends.
I don’t get it. What happened to all the great left-handed hooks and jangly guitar parts that made 2010’s Silver Tower such a great record? Guitarist Oscar Romero (Endless Jags, Gully) has joined the original trio, but with the exception of the title track’s dual-guitar outro and that of the aforementioned “House of Grain,” his addition hasn’t upped the rock quotient much. Brenda’s sound is thicker as a four-piece, but the hooks are either too subtle to really satisfy or non-existent.
Fix Your Eyes was recorded in New York City, where Loring lives these days. This album is like a long-distance relationship. When it works, it works. When it doesn’t….
— Chris Busby
Fix Your Eyes will be released April 16. Check the band’s Facebook page for show updates.