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Rough Trade

Perhaps a few thousand NME readers actually give a crap about Brakes’ pedigree, but the band’s status as a Brit-indie supergroup isn’t the reason its debut long-player, Give Blood, deserves attention. No, the important thing is that the quartet does a few cool things and does them as well as anybody with a U.K. address. Give Blood was recorded in the seaside town of Brighton, but it’s really a downtown record at heart, full of club tales, curse words, boozy moments, and references to snortable commodities. “I heard about your band/I couldn’t help it, you were screaming in my ear/Coked-up arsehole/Waitin’ for Liars/You shoulda come with Karen O/Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh,” sings core member Eamon Hamilton (of British Sea Power) on “Heard About Your Band,” which snidely recounts a run-in with a hipster wannabe. The song picks up where the apparently defunct McLusky left off, with clangy, ’90s-indie guitars and a sense that the lyrics just sort of happened. Hamilton is one of those always-on-edge vocalists—he borrows quite a bit from Frank Black, but his croaks, yelps, and nasal phrasing somehow sound distinctive. When he sings “get high to forget” on the droning “You’ll Always Have a Place to Stay,” it doesn’t come from a place of pain; it sounds like the command of a brain in transition: After the forgetting, genius, there might be some fun to be had. There is looseness and levity throughout Give Blood, including the 10-second “Cheney” (“Don’t be such a dick!”), the aggro “Hi How Are You” (“Won’t you shut the fuck up/I’m-a just tryin’ to watch the band!”), a cover of the Cash/Carter staple “Jackson” (Liela Moss of the Duke Spirit handles June’s vocals), and the slow-building “All Night Disco Party,” which may or may not be a jab at the Franz Ferdinands of the world. Hamilton and his mates (who include members of the Electric Soft Parade and the Tenderfoot) are ultimately rock ’n’ rollers at heart—they adore pushy rhythms (“I Can’t Stand to Stand Beside You”), Velvet Underground–style buildups (“The Most Fun”), and whiffs of the blues (“You’re So Pretty”). And they wrap up Give Blood in about 29 minutes. They probably just didn’t have any other songs, but that’s OK—supergroups can be like that. —Joe Warminsky