The Sun and the Moon Label: Island
In the battle for world domination on the New New Wave front, the Killers were the ones who scored the biggest commercial successes, and Interpol were the cool kids who didn’t sell as many records but were infinitely better-respected by the critics. Landing somewhere between the two were the Bravery, who picked up mixed reviews with their self-titled debut but still managed to capture enough major radio interest with their first single, “An Honest Mistake,” to score a Top 20 album. Rather than rush to compete head to head with the Killers on the sophomore effort front, the Bravery opted to hang tight and give Brandon Flowers and company a chance to deal with the slings and arrows that second albums always inspire before enduring their own critical trials.
And, oh, yes, there will be critical trials for The Sun and the Moon, if only for the fact that one of the tracks – “Every Word Is a Knife in My Ear” – is an unabashed rewrite of “An Honest Mistake.”
The Bravery’s second album finds the group relinquishing production control and handing the reins of command over to a man with considerable experience in the field: Brendan O’Brien, who’s worked with Audioslave, Train, the Wallflowers, and Pearl Jam, all the way up to Bruce Springsteen. In other words, they’re commanding some pretty solid pull in the industry. The problem with The Sun and the Moon, however, isn’t the production; it’s that the Bravery want to do something different...which would be admirable if they could just make up their mind which different thing they want to do.
“Time Won’t Let Me Go” is a reasonable choice for a first single; despite a rather cheesy chorus (“If I could do it all again / I’d go back and change everything”) and a heavy-handed lyrical reference to an ‘80s song in one of the verses (“I never had a Summer of ‘69”), it’s different enough from the sound of their first album to show musical growth while retaining Sam Endicott’s immediately recognizable vocals. “Fistful of Sound” fits the same criteria -- well, minus the ‘80s lyric, that is.
Too much of the album is all over the place, though. You can appreciate that the Bravery wants to prove that they’re not just a one-trick new wave revivalist pony, but on The Sun and the Moon, you can picture the guys in the band displaying the album like a proud pre-schooler and going, “See, we can do this, and we can do this, and we can do this, too!” “Believe” starts off the album more or less in the same manner as the first record, but it’s followed by “This Is Not the End,” which begins by recalling the Clash’s “London Calling,” then stomps along as strings swirl in the background. “Bad Sun” features cheery whistling, but then “Split Me Wide Open” sounds like the Cure, and “The Ocean” is orchestrated to the point that you wonder if O’Brien’s been cribbing from George Martin.
Don’t worry: if you loved the debut, you’ll still at least like the follow-up. You just won’t know what the future holds for the Bravery’s music -- and believe us, you’re not alone.