Brazen Hussies, Living in Fear of Reprisals
With a name like Brazen Hussies and this cover art, the Hussies are clearly a band after my own heart.
EPs are not the best way to rate a band, but in some ways, while the songs themselves may not be the best representation, three songs may give hints of the essence of the band. In Brazen Hussies case, if we trust the character of the songs, the essence is of four people about to fall apart. The music, voices and lyrics are so addled that it’s amazing they hang together as well as they do.
The first song, “Thin Lips,” races by in one minute, forty-seven seconds. Lou McDonnell (a chick) sings the desperate words about a girl about to crash (autobiographical?). Most confounding about the song is the way it jumps from catchy part to catchy part without ever repeating one of them. The song feels like it’s structured verse, chorus, bridge and then . . . a collapse into a disjointed piano coda. The verse is straight-ahead punk; the chorus almost sounds like Brit-pop. If only the band repeated these parts, the song would be chart topping material. Part Elastica, part Sleeper (crica 1995). But then if the song were conventional in the vein of those bands, it wouldn’t be quite as interesting.
The second song, “Salt Leak,” is sung flatly by Dave Queen. Backed by Lou’s voice and competing with noisy, sometimes nonsensical guitars and electronic squeaks, the mid-tempo song actually has a Pavement-like charm to it. It too falls apart before the listener quite gets a handle on it.
The last track, “Scrape,” is a barrage of noise. It’s actually an evenly paced British grunge song, but the band had the sense to pile on “oh-oh” voices from Lou and more noisy guitars and electronics to keep this from sounding typical. Despite some flat vocals from Dave (who does a fairly good job of using his limitations to his advantage), the song is probably the most accomplished here. Its chorus actually repeats a few times and their great drummer (Russell Curtis) gets to show off a bit.
The band was definitely on a small budget, but the noisy production actually helps develop the character of the songs. Lots of bands can sing about desperation but few can sound like it. There’s a fine balance to be struck between studio savvy and live performance and for an indie band on a budget, Brazen Hussies have done an excellent job. There’s also a fine balance to be struck between song writing and deconstruction and while they may not achieve this balance in these three songs, Brazen Hussies show that the potential is there.