Wednesday, February 8, 2012

EP review: Brother George - 'Piney'

By Sasha Geffen

There's a guitar solo halfway through the first track of Brother George's debut EP whose tone would make Girls sweat with envy. Seriously--if you're at all into vintage guitars and the ways they can be brought to orgasm, stop reading, scroll to the bottom, and stream "Olivia Oh Yeah" posthaste. You're in for all kinds of tone boners. 

Historically, I've had mixed feelings about the whole '60s and '70s revivalist noise that the mainstream music blogosphere has become so enraptured by. Sure, all genre is fair game as long as you've got something to say within it, but it seems that most bands who don the vintage mantle do so aimlessly, lazily, because it's fun and easy and requires little if any invention. These bands are made up of people who love nothing more than to tell other people they're in bands. But if you're capable of invigorating that old sound with a new sense of urgency? If the midcentury aesthetic is really and truly the most comfortable niche for the songs that you write? By all means, go old school. Brother George does and it's wonderful.

These guys have been playing shows around Chicago for at least the past two years and yet they've only just put out their first studio recording--the four-song Piney EP. The band doesn't like to rush into things. The quality of the EP reflects its slow generation; each tone and chord feels hand-picked with the care that it takes to meticulously construct something very simple. 

With their classic gear setup (Fender guitars, Hofner viola bass if I remember correctly from seeing them live), Brother George build golden, jangly pop songs that manage to carve out a real sense of depth. A thick, smokey air swirls inside all four tracks on the EP; guitars needle in and out of it or crash through it completely in commanding sweeps. There's no trace of the compressed squeak-pop that retro styling sometimes assumes. They're not trying to be cute; Piney's offerings are demanding rather than lackadaisical, airy while still remaining at points thunderous. Brother George play like they mean it, and for that I'm grateful to them.

I'm also grateful that their vocalists actually sing instead of whatever it is that Christopher Owens does with his face. We're even treated to some Fleet Foxes-style harmonies on "Caroline" when the EP dips into some sadder places than I'm used to on recordings that owe the bulk of their tone to the Beach Boys. But that's because Brother George aren't just riding the surf of vintage chic for the fun of it. They're out there writing songs like master craftsmen, and the results of their labor thus far are endlessly listenable.

Piney is out now as a pay-what-you-will download from Bandcamp. You can catch Brother George live tomorrow evening, February 9th, at Subterranean.

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