When you go to record an album, you must look at your strengths and decide what would best represent your sound and music. And sometimes, your strengths lie more in the live performance than they lie in creating music in a professional studio. The Philadelphia band The Brakes decided that for their Hyena Records debut, they would take the unusual step of recording the album live in concert. The album that resulted from live recording is entitled “Tale of Two Cities”.
The Brakes is a rock band that is made up of five multi-talented musicians. The band is comprised of: singer-songwriter Zach Djanikian, who also contributes bass, acoustic guitar, and tenor saxophone; Matt Kass, who contributes guitar and bass; Derek Feinberg, who contributes guitar, bass and vocals; Adam Flicker, who contributes keyboards, trumpet and vocals; and Josh Sack, who plays drums for the group.
Although it might seem unusual to have a band record their first album live The Brakes show that they have the talent to do it. And with the album being live, the listener gets a good idea of what to expect when actually seeing the band live in concert.
“Tale of Two Cities,” the new album from The Brakes, is just that: an audio record of the time the band spent recording in two locations, Milkboy, a neighborhood listening room in Ardmore, PA, and The Knitting Factory, a concert club in New York City. Having spent a month in residence at the two clubs, The Brakes gave one concert a week at both locations and recorded each show. When the month-long residences were up, The Brakes took what had been recorded, went into the studio to collect “the best of the best” of the performances and came up with tracks that were ultimately assembled to create Tale of Two Cities.
Tale of Two Cities is what a rock album should be: a true representation of the talents of the band that made the album. The songs on the album vary in style and keep the listener wanting more, wanting to hear what else the band can do. Three particular songs that stand out on the release are “Big Money,” “Supermarket” and “Empty House,” perhaps the best track of the entire album.
The first standout track is “Big Money”. The song is a great blues-flavored rock song. That musical direction comes from the slow, easy pace to the music as well as the bluesy feel to the main guitar on the track. The Blues/Rock combination ends up making a song that brings to mind songs that are being created by the likes of someone like Kenny Wayne Shepherd. While the track is not one of the hardest rockin’ songs on the release, the track does show just how tight the group is.
Another track that stands out on the Tale of Two Cities album from The Brakes is the song “Supermarket”. With this track, the band takes on a sound and style that would go feel right at home with a rock group such as The Grateful Dead, Little Feat or even The Band. The reason for that is because the song created by The Brakes contains a certain amount of groove to the music that you might find with jam bands. “Supermarket” is a great rock song that helps to show that band can really get down.
The track “Empty House” shows that the members of the band have a command of their instruments. This is because the track contains a rather laidback feel with a slow-tempo to the music. The song revolves mainly around the vocals and guitar of Zach Djanikian as he sings about trying to find something to do to occupy his time while spending some time alone in a house where no one else is present. One of the standout musicians on the track has to be whichever band member was playing bass on the track. It is the bass that truly helps to shape the music of the track as the instrument acts more like the lead guitar than either of the guitars on the track.
If any song on the album was a good representation of a band playing and recording inside of a music venue, it would have to “Empty House”. The reason for that is because of the atmosphere that the listener is able to pick up on as the track plays out. Not only do you hear a slight noise coming from the audience that was present for the recording of that particular night, you also hear telltale sounds of machinery being used in the background to help make someone’s beverage. The background noise doesn’t really distract from the song or the band’s ability to play; it simply lets the listener know that, yes, the album was indeed recoded live.
These are only three of the songs that are contained within the dozen tracks that make up the Tale of Two Cities album. The other nine songs contained on the album but have not been mentioned are just as strong. The twelve tracks that were chosen by the band combine to make an enjoyable listening experience.
The five members of The Brakes are first and foremost strong musicians. Add in the songwriting that appears on the release and you have an album that features strong playing, strong writing and strong onstage presence. If you are looking for a good rock album by some talented musicians, The Brakes’ Tale of Two Cities is an album you should really check out.
To check out The Brakes and their music, go to http://www.myspace.com/thebrakes.