Brakes – the British band that has started calling itself BrakesBrakesBrakes in the U.S. for legal reasons – released one of the best records of 2005, Give Blood, a fun set of punk, folk and country in short dashes. Some of the songs are so short that they’re like haiku with guitars and screams. No song outstays its welcome. I saw Brakes at SXSW in 2006, but they hadn’t made it to Chicago until Sunday (June 10), when they finally came to town for a concert at the Empty Bottle.
The first band of the night was Electric Soft Parade, which overlaps with Brakes by a couple of members. I don’t know this band at all, but I enjoyed their performance quite a bit. It’s in a similar vein to Brakes, with less country twang and a little more Robyn Hitchcock Britishness. The middle band was Pela, a group of New York rockers who put on a pretty good show. I don’t know that their music did anything groundbreaking (they played a Pixies cover, which will give you an idea of where they’re coming from), but when they really let loose in the louder moments of their songs, it was fairly intense.
Brakes were simply great, playing lots of songs from the first album (well, it is pretty short) as well as the new one, The Beatific Visions. I love the whiny tone of the vocals, the constant presence of acoustic guitar, the off-kilter style of the songs. At their core, they’re just great songs, with a fair amount of English humor. For the two shortest songs of all, the political rant “Cheney” and “Comma Comma Stop,” Brakes obliged audience requests and played the songs twice in a row.