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D.C. synth quartet Br’er’s fourth full-length album, Brunch is for A$$holes, is puzzling. On one hand, it’s a natural extension of their previous effort, 2015’s Masking: The tracks oscillate between stunningly beautiful, intensely personal meditations and crushingly heavy rails against society’s ills. On the other, it’s far and away the most disjointed Br’er release thus far, feeling closer to an extended single or EP than a cohesive full-length. It’s undeniably good and features some of Br’er’s best tracks to date, but Brunch is for A$$holes doesn’t quite reach the soaring heights of the band’s previous records.
Vocalist and primary composer Benjamin Schurr notes that, “in a weird way, it’s our comedy album, but definitely a dark comedy album.” When compared with the brutality of Masking or the somberness of City of Light, Brunch absolutely stands alone. “Help Me Live” starts the album on a note of total melancholy and it largely continues like that until Masking holdover “Some People Say I’m No Good” brings a delightful amount of sleaze. It doesn’t really make sense, but it also makes perfect sense: Br’er has never been a band that is wholly one thing or another, and Brunch is for A$$holes embraces that.
Schurr is fully aware this album isn’t as unified as previous Br’er releases––that’s by design. “Usually when I write a record, there’s more of a narrative musically and thematically,” he says. “I want it to tell a story, whereas this one is really just a collection of songs.” Originally conceived as a single release for “Brunch is for Assholes,” the album features three versions of that track. Dubbed “Mimosa,” “Xiu Xiu,” and “Bloody Mary,” they represent what Schurr refers to as the “three stages of brunch,” (with “Xiu Xiu,” which was mixed by Jamie Stewart of the titular experimental band, standing in for the hand-poured coffee) and offer vastly different musical approaches to the album’s takedown of gentrification.
The “Mimosa” and “Bloody Mary” versions of the track are stellar, with “Mimosa” offering listeners a less distorted and pop-oriented approach to the track, featuring backing vocals from Sleepy Kitty guitarist/vocalist Paige Brubeck. “Bloody Mary” is a lengthier, heavier, and much more violent take representative of the way the track is performed live.
The “Xiu Xiu” version, however, sticks out like a sore thumb: Featured on the Blight Records compilation released last year, the track is much slower and less dynamic than the other two. Though each of the different mixes stand on their own, having three different versions of the same song on an album makes for tedious listening.
“Brunch is for Assholes” aside, the remaining seven tracks on the album are fantastic and represent some of the best songs Br’er has ever put together. Album highlights “Dozen Dream” and “Devotional” are beautiful looks into the varied ways in which Schurr weaves his inner life into his music, offering meditations on the deterioration of a relationship and the nature of devotion, respectively. And while it might not be as cohesive a whole as Br’er’s previous efforts, the collected songs are more than capable of standing on their own.