As a huge fan of their eponymous first album, and an even bigger fan of second album, “The Sun and the Moon”, I had a lot of expectations for The Bravery’s third album, Stir the Blood.
First the criticism-
In the first two albums, every song was unique and a great listen. Not so for this album. The songs are darker for sure, and they achieve some cool effects-such as in Song For Jacob. The problem is that a lot of the songs are similar to each other and lack a unique feel.
On top of that, the melodies in many of them, like “Jack-O’-Lantern Man”, “Red Hands and White Knuckles”, and “I Have Seen the Future” don’t seem to flow directly from the instrumentation. Rather, singer Sam Endicott seems to place his vocals separate from the rest of the song, the effect being that he demonstrates his remarkable virtuoso skills at the expense of the song’s natural progression. In contrast- a couple good examples of the different parts of the song giving one another enough room to develop independently can be found in The Ring Song and Tyrant, both from their self-titled first album.
Anthony Burulcich’s drumming is excellent as always; unfortunately, I don’t think it’s used to its full potential to really steer songs in new directions. You can see Burulcich’s unique imprint in songs like Honest Mistake off the first album and in the mind-blowing conclusion to The Ocean off the second album, elements that are sadly missing in Stir the Blood.
As for the positive-
There are some really solid songs on this album. The single, “Slow Poison” is wonderful, musically and lyrically, with a perfect mixture of Sam Endicott’s leathery, emotional, straining voice singing dark lyrics against the upbeat, 80’s new wave-y background.
However, the best song on the album by far is “The Spectator.” Again, lyrically powerful stuff, some great visuals:
"His eyes, like two cats, scratching in his head
Begging him for sleep, starving for a bed."
I don't know much about music theory, but I believe that the song uses minor two part harmony vocals when they sing "Chime Chime Chime..." that produce a really cool effect. Look for it at 2:53. I tried recording the same part myself as a 3-part harmony triad- totally destroys the effect that The Bravery cultivated, one that fits perfectly with the subject of the lyrics.
Two songs that completely stand out on the album, in the sense that they don't really fit the feel of the other songs, are She's So Bendable, (that seems to have taken a page out of BJ Thomas' Rock Me Gently) and Sugar Pill, both very cool with unique mixing.
Like all Bravery albums, give the songs a few listens; at least one or two will be sure to grow on you. --- FA