Strange Boys Be Brave(Rough Trade) Buy it from Insound
Though laced with what an unprepared ear will originally interpret as an irregular and slightly dissonant air, The Strange Boys new album, Be Brave, has an odd way of growing on you. Straight away, the unconventional chords and delivery probably won’t convince you to renounce your past favourite band in favour of what I can only describe as a seventies surf-pop influenced funk group forever contemplating the possibility of crossing into punk, yet a short trial of perserverent listening may convince you to pay them their dues. Like a new wool blanket that just necessitates a short period of endurant itchiness prior to your skin getting used to the texture, the scratches Ryan Sambol’s voice seem to give you will, eventually, transcend into an interesting study of unlikely musical choices that offer something much more than just background noises to think on.
Unfortunately, this brief epoch of obligatory curiosity is quite quickly cast aside once the listener begins to discern the disconcerting, and continually more obvious, admission that the Strange Boys do not actually grow, fluctuate, or express different sides of their music besides the random employment of a couple uncommon instruments, thrown in sporadically like a chef bent simply upon creating a new taste as opposed to something actually tasty.
Albeit this fact, they do manage to come off with an attitude all their own. Sounding as if Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst took guitar lessons from Willie Nelson then decided to join musical group the Black Kids, the Strange Boys’ sound is as undeniably original is it is impossible to ignore, which, before you start to naysay my somewhat injurious mark, is not necessarily a good thing. Without going so far as to utilize the old 'train wreck' adage, their ‘unique’ sound could be compared to swallowing juice when expecting milk; your thoughts are concerned only with figuring out if whatever has invaded your senses tastes bad because it was unexpected, or if you’d be running for the sink even when prepared. From the confusing, earthquake reminiscent guitar riff combined with what comes off as more of a whine than a singing voice in You Can’t Only Love When You Want To, to a song about “friends having sex in the other room/being quite as they can, so as not to be rude”, the listener is often left to wonder “was that supposed to happen?” As these occurrences continue to pile up against nasal tones and unneeded accidentals, it becomes apparent that what is being listened to is less an album than it is an experiment upon how many rules and standards can be bypassed or broken. This, in turn, makes all of the songs homogenous in their reliability of being completely unreliable - all in all, some weird tasting juice. Devoid of any style shift, the entire gamut of their songs running along the same basic structure and form, the Strange Boys achieve normalcy through an unwavering consistency of doing the unexpected.
This is not to say that their style is bad, just that it becomes somewhat stagnant due to the fact that it’s major allure lies in being different. When listening to individual songs such as Be Brave and Night Might, their distinctive groove is catchy, sometimes even-foot tappingly so - the eponymous Be Brave’s upbeat tempo quite clearly introducing one to the band’s divergent attitude, one that borrows from many genres without becoming wholly bound to any. Reviewed as a whole album though, it must concede that buying Be Brave would be like paying for two songs played at different speeds and in different keys fourteen times over, an unwise choice that would eventually leave many wondering just what the hell is so different between Friday in Paris and Da Da anyway? I've got to tell you, after these past couple days, I can barely even tell anymore.21 March, 2010 - 22:02 — Jackson White