REVIEWED: Brocken Spectre - Grand Kids EP

For a brief moment before I get into the actual music, I wanted to pose a question about the album art for Brocken Spectre’s debut EP Grand Kids. What the hell are those extremely dangerous looking ladder/teeter-totter things the kids are playing on? If anyone could tell me what those are and where I can get one that would be greatly appreciated.

Moving on.

A smart man once told me that there is no truly original music, any song you write is just the sum total of every song you’ve heard before you wrote it. In addition to being smart this man was also a jaded metal head with a bit of a drinking problem, so it’s a safe bet he meant this in a negative way. I like playing devil’s advocate, so I tried to argue that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Brocken Spectre, an experimental pop-rock four piece from Vancouver, would have been a great case in point for this argument had they existed at the time. If a song is the sum total of all songs heard before it, I would hazard a guess that Brocken Spectre’s play list might include bands like Local Natives, Bombay Bicycle Club, and The Shins. In short, their debut EP Grand Kids (or more specifically elements of the EP) has definitely been done before, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Admittedly, Grand Kids took me a little while to get into. But once I did I found myself picking out new things to like every time I listened to it. As a result it’s pretty damn hard to get sick of these songs. The riffs are very well thought out (with special mention going to the extremely well placed but not overpowering synth lines in “Marionette King,” “The Fourth Wall,” and “Corlioghost”), lead singer Colin Ablitt’s vocals are all over the map in a good way, and I am oddly addicted to the percussion: no face-melting drum solos, just creative and deceptively simple beats that really drive the songs forward. Musically, I feel like the entire band has probably had a decent amount of formal training but might be trying to hide it behind a very precise simplicity. Its kind of like a “Where’s Waldo” for music students, which is great even if you are not a music student.

That being said, it’s a little hard to explain but while listening to Grand Kids I often felt like the songs were building up to something and never quite got there. I don’t necessarily mean they should have gotten heavier; in fact it might be that the songs just didn’t have a sense resolution. Then again maybe I just wanted a little more harmony here or there (though if I’m being honest I think everyone should harmonize everything all the time, so unless you’re Fleetwood Mac I’m probably gonna say “put more harmonies in it” to anything), or it could be that I wanted the vocals to get overtaken by the instruments once in a while; there’s some awesome things happening back there but at times it seems the vocals could be mixed into the instruments a little better. My girlfriend has politely informed me that the words I’m looking for here are “crescendos” “cadence” and “dynamic layering” but I will just have to trust her on that one as I am too lazy to check Wikipedia and confirm.

Overall, even though parts of Grand Kids sound familiar, and there may have been a little too much tension for not enough release, these are not your typical garage rockers. It’s obvious that a whole hell of a lot of thought and technical skill has been put into writing these songs. Especially as a first release, Grand Kids is catchy, intelligent, and perfect for putting on your headphones and spacing the fuck out for a half hour or so.

I give Brocken Spectre’s Grand Kids EP seven and a half epic seesaw-doom-ladders out of ten. 

- Rowan Swain


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