Viva Brother – Famous First Words (Geffen)
August 10, 2011 by Dan Nelson
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you will no doubt have come across Brother or Viva Brother as they are now called. There hasn’t been a day gone by when their name or more specifically their views on the current musical climate and their lofty ambitions haven’t been mentioned. NME have referred to them as the return of the British guitar band and even heralded them as kings of a new genre, grit-pop, whilst others are just dismissing them as average Joes who have too much to say but not much to show for it.
Kings of Leon, Mumford and Sons who they call a ‘painted by numbers’ band, and even Mercury prize winning London Dubsteppers the XX have been branded as ‘very boring’, have all been on the sharp end of this Slough born, gobby four piece’s rhetoric. Not a great way to earn friends in high places or to adhere yourselves to peoples affections. This was all before they had even released anything, with their debut album under their new moniker Viva Brother (apparently there is an Aussie Celtic band called Brother) this is a chance to see if these pretenders to the Britpop throne are all mouth no trousers or they actually have something worthwhile to say.
‘New Years Day’ sets the standard for what the band are all about, anthemic guitars and rabble rousing choruses and feels perfectly about what Britpop revolves around, with its sing-along chorus of ‘Run Away Run Awaaaay’. The trend continues with ‘Still Here’ but this wears a little thin over the course of 10 tracks and what transpires is a band that are so immersed within the Britpop genre that they lose all originality, and they lack the passion to stretch themselves. Sure, they’ve got all their bases covered from Oasis ‘Electric Daydream’ to Blur to Suede to also-rans Cast, remember them? But where is the energy and the ideas, and more importantly the tunes.
It is frustrating, as they do have the capacity to create huge belting choruses but they don’t really let them soar, giving up midway. Case in point is ‘Darling Buds of May’ which is actually a catchy song (there are too few of them on here) despite its trite lyrics and forgettable chorus ‘her birthday is in May, it is what it is’, if it wasn’t so half-hearted, it could’ve been something worthwhile.
The masses should love this sort of thing and that’s probably why their record label has spent big on them, even giving them a producer like Stephen Street, but for anyone who’s expecting something with a bit more personality and bravado, which the band displayed prior to the release, it’s a complete disappointment as they don’t seem to be able to match that with their music, which is a shame. ‘Famous Last Words’ would’ve been a better title.
Britpop belongs in the past and on the evidence of this misguided rehash, that’s where it belongs.