Broken Beak have come far in a short amount of time. Initially the solo work of lead vocalist and songwriter Beau Brynes, the Philly group has only recently followed through from its past flirting with fully-fledged band recordings – Some Nerve is their first full-length on Near Mint Records, and follows a couple of singles released last New Year’s Day. It expands on these past efforts, standing a full head or two above them – although these were fantastic releases, Some Nerve makes full use of the space it’s given, riding on waves of distortion, snappy drum lines and cleverly placed feedback to create a powerful indie rock record.
Straight from the starting line, Broken Beak make their presence known – a brief acoustic intro in ‘Matches’ soon makes way for the energy of the band whilst Brynes really comes into his own vocally, delivering pained lake/hound metaphors with a kick. His voice brings comparisons to Mike Kinsella (as of late especially), but ultimately that’s a lazy one – Beau carries a restrained fury in his singing that wouldn’t be found in Kinsella, but still manages to convey softer moments with grace and warmth. As well as Brynes, the Broken Beak name is carried by Evan Clark Moorehead (bass), Jeff Malt (drums), and Brendan Lukens (guitar). They work in tandem with Brynes’ songwriting, bringing a sense of urgency to the recordings that fits as the missing piece of the Beak jigsaw.
A lot of the time it’s difficult to tell what Brynes is actually conveying in his music. Outside of performing, Brynes is best known for his visual art under the moniker ‘Bad Museum’. His work is hazy, abstract and at times unnerving, a feeling also expressed in his poetry; there’s themes of fear, longing and addiction prevalent here, one particular line that sticks being a refrain of “the pain is not mine” in ‘Matches’. Beau changes his tune later on in pre-release single ‘Saint’, pulling away from the microphone to bark “some pain is mine” over a low feedback hum. Little themes of continuity like this make the record an evocative, balls-to-the-wall listen – the last line of ‘Stable’ being “I am the devil” leading straight into the punching drum introduction to ‘Saint’ seems like no small accident. The specific situations are difficult to discern, but whether he’s mulling over relationships (both familial and romantic), base attraction and self-esteem, or lyrical ground less walked on, Brynes builds himself a frame and fills the space in between with incredibly rich, frantic imagery.
Waxing lyrical aside, the album flows remarkably well from beginning to end. Jake Ewald’s production work is stellar, tying together intense and shamelessly riffing tracks such as ‘Humble’ to songs like ‘Venom Room’, which wouldn’t be out of place on an Orchid Tapes release – Brynes strums alone over a warm keyboard line that’s reminiscent of the refrain in Alex G’s ‘Cards’, harkening back to Broken Beak’s early releases. The ropes at work here are subtle, never fraying; they bring Brynes’ vocals to the foreground without overshadowing the rest of the band at work. ‘Deliver’ is a key example of this – an earlier recording released on Bandcamp was still brilliant, but muddier. This version wears the right gloves to the ring, delivering (wow) the song with the clear-cut punch it needs.
Some Nerve is an album deserving of your attention. Boding great things for a band who are really just getting started at this game, it carries spit, grit and serious depth in one tightly bound package.By Jowan Mead