There’s always that one friend — the one that picks the band that’ll make everyone’s “next big thing” list for the coming year.

Music Reviews
Sam never suspected that his bandmates were about to jump him and steal his kicks. (Courtesy of Island Records)

He’s always reading the preview issues of Rolling Stone or Spin and checking blogs, making mental notes of which post-punk revivalists or folk-fusion or glitch-hop acts will really stir the buzz.

Most of the time, he’s right. But he’s also a victim of the hype machine, which is all too often just a glittery, tightly packaged, finely mascara’d game of musical telephone.

Such is the case with the spankin’ new debut from the latest scowling New York quintet, The Bravery. Sure, that friend’s been raving about The Bravery’s totally rad brand of disco-glam rock for months now. The real problem is that The Bravery have scarcely been a band longer than that; playing their first gig in the summer of 2003.

Thanks to major magazine buzz and the grand appetites of record execs who love a good new wave hair cut, The Bravery have, in some sense, already made a name for themselves. Their sizzling single, “An Honest Mistake” runs circles around MTV U programming, and is a near perfect blueprint for the attitude of the dorm-room hipster that sneers at his beer-guzzling neighbor.

For their self-titled debut album, the boys wear classic influences on their stylish sleeves. Singer/guitarist Sam Endicott has claimed to not own many Duran Duran or Depeche Mode records, but listeners can’t help but hear “No Breaks” and think of a young David Gahan.

Unfortunately, Brandon Flowers of The Killers has already staked this coveted claim. This, by transitive property, pretty much makes Sam Endicott a copycat singer. Still, The Bravery rock with a lazy intent, favoring bass pedal heavy disco beats and plenty of effects-laden keyboard accents. This makes it a bit strange that there’s a noticeable lack of pounding synthesizer, which listeners might expect from a crew of apparent New Wave worshippers.

Nevertheless, Endicott has a right to toss his batch of pouty sing alongs into the ring of other next-big-thing bands. His lamentation in “The Ring Song” almost evokes some empathy, as he croons, “Well I don’t see no ring on these fingers.” That is, until he crudely offends with “You put the ‘art’ in retarded” in “Public Service Announcement.” Guitarist Michael Zakarin’s arena-style soloing often seems out of place, tacked on at the end of otherwise enjoyable tunes, like “Fearless.” A small handful of the album’s tracks are easily dismissible, lacking a real hook and even less competent lyrics.

Keyboardist John Conway provides some of The Bravery’s most lush backdrops, filling the space between guitar lines, as well as adding a dream-like intro to “The Ring Song.”

Yet for all of the comparison and criticism, The Bravery is a record that will carve out a fanbase. Sam Endicott will fit nicely into the dreamily weird, New-Wave crooner “Walk of Fame” in 2005. It’ll entice the MTV2 generation to buy an album from a hip new “It” band bound for season three of “The O.C.” And that friend, the one that finds all the hot new acts, will let them fizzle away into next year.

The Bravery won’t leave a major imprint on the rush of bands cashing in on a disco beat and a prayer, but they’ll exist in the year-end wrap up in that, “Oh, yeah, them” sort of fashion.

 

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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