February 03, 2004

Brighter "Singles, 1989-1992"

Whenever I get a singles compilation, I always make sure to go through the listing, learn what the singles were, and then listen to it piecemeal, dividing it up by singles. I usually listen to the album three or four times in this manner, so I can get a real feel for what the band was trying to do with that particular single. Of course, occasionaly doing that is difficult, especially when the collection in question is either incomplete or doesn't give specifics about where the songs came from. Such a method is important for collections like this one, because Brighter was a singles band.

If the name Brighter means nothing to you, don't fret. Brighter was one of the legendary Sarah Records' flagship bands. Even though they did not release a proper full length album, that did not negate the fact that they were a most excellent group. The members of this trio--Alex Sharkey, Keris Howard and Alison Cousens--would later appear in bands such as Harper Lee, Trembling Blue Stars, Fosca and Pinkie, all fine bands in their own right. It's interesting to note that Howard would later become a member of Trembling Blue Stars, because Brighter's sound is very similar to what Trembling Blue Stars would do to greater acclaim. It's even more interesting to note that Harper Lee and Brigher aren't that different in sound, either; Howard is obviously married to sad atmospheric pop songs, and we're all the better for it.

As for the individual records, it's amazing to note how consistent Brighter was; their first single, the Around the World in 80 Days EP, sounds amazingly like the songs from their final, self-titled EP--so much so that you would easily think that they were recorded at the exact same sessions! It makes it difficult to point out how they grew over time, because it doesn't seem as if they ever needed to grow, because they didn't! Songs like "Around the World in 80 Days" and "I Don't Think It Matters" ache equally, and occasionally they actually tried to be a bit upbeat, such as on the excellent "Does Love Last Forever?" No matter, though; when put together as a compilation album, Brighter's collected work is as strong as anything that Trembling Blue Stars would release. Though everything on here is equally strong, I'm most fond of the final EP, as Brighter had reached a nice point of maturation, and "Hope Springs Eternal" is the song that should have been their big hit.

Brighter may be a point of obscurity for those outside the indiepop world, but that doesn't mean that they were anything to scoff at. Singles 1989-1992 clearly shows that had they really tried to break beyond being a small little indiepop band, Brighter could have taken over the world. Okay, maybe that's the ever-growing optimist in me giving them credit where none was due, but Brighter's legacy has been preserved with this collection, and it certainly was worth the effort. (Now maybe we could get a reissue of their sole album, Laurel?)

--Joseph Kyle

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