March 06, 2003

Brandston "Death & Taxes"

These guys have impressed me. Though they're following the (insert the dirty "e" word here) pattern, they've really done something great: they've refused to hide their love of Elvis Costello. Listen to "On Three" or "In the Pills" and tell me that they've not worn out one or two copies of Armed Forces or Imperial Bedroom. I've never heard any of Brandtson's other records, but this little record certainly quickly convinces me that they're a powerful rock band.

Yeah, they're just "rock." None of those other adjectives are necessary, because they're so repetitve, so meaningless. I mean, they've got everything good: intelligent lyrics, a really pulsing, driving beat; some great guitar licks, too. Everything that a rock band needs to have, they've got it. I can tell they're probably a kick-ass live band as well. What I like most about Death & Taxes are the vocals. They're doing the dual male vocal thing, which really works for this kind of crunchy pop. They even slow things down a bit on closer "In A Word," and their tenderness doesn't sound a bit forced, which is a problem when loud rock bands "slow it down a bit." About the only weak spot on here is "Ain't No Trip To Cleveland," which is too much of a feel-good, "this bud's for you" moment that developed back in the seventies and simply will not go away. It wasn't very clever 30 years ago, and it certainly isn't now.

Death & Taxes is a lovely little mini-album from a great little band. While some might be a little put-off by the "e", you really shouldn't think about it that much; they're a great little rock band, and if they continue to look inward while songwriting, they'll soon be a force to contend with. As for now, consider Death & Taxes your final warning.

--Joseph Kyle

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