Brick and Mortar’s EP, Bangs, is interesting and innovative and alive. I usually know whether or not I connect to a band’s sound and sentiment within two minutes of jumping through the digital files sent to Maine Music News. It didn’t take that long with this band, maybe 30 seconds. The first distortion and bass line had me listening and the vocals had me hooked. I’d love to tell you that I understand this genre of bass and drum and electronic samples, but I’ll stick to honesty – and honestly I know that this is great, surprising, challenging music that just grabs you by the throat – in a good way. It has been on hot repeat at our house, and it is time to set it free for our readers.
John Tacon’s drums, vocals, and electronic samples joins Brandon Asraf’s bass and vocals to create a wild ride of dodging and weaving through shifting tempos and surprising combinations of indie rock and pop. Here we find distortion, sci-fi movie effects, heavy bass, and masterful percussion. That said, nothing here is uncomfortable or tired – it’s a fist fight of a good time. This bag of tricks mixes with lyrics that fly just south of a protest song as they offer the juxtaposition of surrendering to the defeatist power bastards before they surge back into the ring to survive and fight on harder and harder, all delivered in a charismatic, raw yet refined, vocal style. Each song feels like a soundtrack, a little story, a tiny little thrill ride.
Clearly this music is meant to be more than just an audio experience, and Brick and Mortar’s music is connected to film and other mediums for audiovisual forays. While some articles and reviews for the video of title track, “Bangs,” have warned this isn’t for the faint of heart, I have more faith in my readers and I know you all watch action movies and Sons of Anarchy. “Bangs” is violent because it is based on the blood diamond smuggling career of Brandon Asraf’s father. Hold on to your seats and give this a watch and a listen.
So now we can all agree this isn’t music to lull you to sleep.
Track by Track
#1 – Bangs. You’ve already heard this if you checked out the video above. “Bangs” sets the tone for the EP, a tone that doesn’t falter. Asraf’s vocals soar and swing in that space between global, sweet, and sensual, straddling protest and peaceful belief in defeat. Grit galore…and fun.
#2 – Heatstroke. Up tempo and crashing, this is where melancholy meets determined. “I told you I’m a monster and I can’t seem to feel. They ask me are you happy? I said no, but I am real.” This may be what I most like about Brick and Mortar – their will to speak the truth about socially sanctified norms that twist and destroy. Even better, they set it all on top of shifting, sliding elements of melody to create movement that keeps the listener slightly off balance like a carnival ride. Check out the acoustic version – Google it.
#3 – Keep this Place Beautiful. “We can get high or we can change the world” sings Asraf in vocals that soar then dive and soar again. Intense and driven, “Beautiful” takes on the challenge wrapped in a promise to change the world, and it is strangely, oddly, lovely.
#4 – Locked in a Cage. Asraf’s vocals walk easily through sweet and growling sentiment, making the leap in a split second. Opening with “…a little drop of dreams can go so far…” before declaring that “you know I’ve got the anger of the burning sun…” this cut refuses to be limited in scope. Heated, it feels danceable, with the proper chemical catalysts.
#5 – No, I Won’t Go. Charming, lighter, with wonderful rhythm and a straightforward message, this song adds a call and response feel. This is a cool, shady spot in the heat of the EP.
#6 – Old Boy. Still working that wonderful chaos and keeping it interesting, “Old Boy” flirts with a little funk, surfer music, and vintage 60s. Hailing from New Jersey, this all makes sense with what Maine Music News has seen from the young bands from that part of the East Coast. And it works.
#7 – Terrible Things. As stated before, a lot of reviewers have christened Brick and Mortar as aggressive, violent even. I don’t get it, but I may have been baptized in muddy water and weaned on Steve Earle’s American point of view. I don’t blink. “Terrible Things” shuts down Bangs with Tacon and Asraf moving this song easily between the dark and heavy to the energetic and up beat. “Sometimes I think of doing terrible things. I know I shouldn’t think it, but I do anyway.” Sounds pretty typical and honest to me. The bad news? The EP is over. Hit repeat.
Young and energetic and by all accounts poised to set a new standard for this genre, Brick and Mortar have put out a seven song power house collection with Bangs. Tacon is startlingly good at what he does, and Asraf’s vocals are fresh and exciting. Entertaining, provoking, and appealing, this EP proves that this duo is coming of age musically while still leaving plenty of room to grow. If the studio version is this exciting, the live show has to be electric. New Englanders – you can catch Brick and Mortar performing in Boston, MA, at the Brighton Music Hall with Middle Class Rut on March 16th, 2014. Be there. Eat your Wheaties.