Thursday, July 7, 2022

Brave Rival – Life’s Machine

Nominated for Best Emerging Blues Artist Of The Year at this year’s UK Blues Awards 2022, this Portsmouth-based five-piece play fast and loose with the concept, incorporating rock and soul just as much.

While male acts like Sam & Dave, Hall & Oates, Alice In Chains etc have no problem featuring two lead vocalists, aside from pop act Shakespeare’s Sister and minor 80s hard rock act Cheetah I can’t think of many females doing similarly so, thus the voices of Lindsey Bonnick and Chloe Josephine together proves aurally worth listening to.

That they’re also aided on the vocal front by a six strong, mainly female, Bravian Choir and their drummer Donna Peters is also of the supposedly fairer sex might be seen to tip rock’s age-old male bias, though it could be something more mundane and practical as they happened to be the right people for the job. The band is rounded out by Billy Dedman on bass, and guitarist Ed Clarke, plus assorted keyboard players on the album.

A young group, one gets the impression the various personalities involved spent their formative years rifling through their parents CD collection, then sifted it through an indy-come-modern R ‘n B blender, and cooked it up with their own emergent emotions.

‘Heart Attack’ finds a finely abrasive guitar sound at the forefront here on this Southern rock ‘n roller, the riff snaps back and forward and then tumbling out in freewheeling solo, before the whole thing slows down to a more ethereal performance before returning to its two-pronged vocal attacks, whooping, hollering and panting hard near the end. It’s a good way to introduce yourself on an album.

Mind you, they confuse the heck out the listener, but in a good way with follow-on track ‘Guilty Love’ that comes on like a cross between Graham Parker & The Rumour and MTV-era Heart. Things ease down gently, the pairing’s vocals heard more distinctly separate on ‘Without You’, as they sing in echo to each other, in harmony, and also solo. As it progresses it, becomes more a hardy folk rocker with higher vocals, compelling in its melody.

Things get increasingly heavier however with ‘Run And Hide’, a NWOHM riff brushed down and smoothed off a little, put still racing like a hound chasing a fox, while the girls give it big time on near-operatic vocalisms, and guitarist Ed Clarke invokes his namesake with a solo that squeals vigorously.  ‘Come Down’ is a slow soulful blues number, weary deeper vocals evoke lines for consideration, rising higher, with gospel intonations from the Bravian Choir, taken further by evedn longer guitar solo extravaganzas.

‘What’s Your Name Again?’ goes for a sludgy Gothic southern rock approach, as recovering from a hangover the singers try to recall how they ended up in a strange bedroom. My initial thoughts were this might be a case of drinks having been spiked but no such wariness is afforded in the later lyrics. So maybe with two female voices singing it was about a threesome, or even just the two girls asking each other the same question as they wake up with each other? There’s ambiguity but it doesn’t quite work, save as a statement on this aging reviewer’s concerns over modern binge drinking.

‘Secrets’ is a bluesy AOR tune that again part evokes Heart, while ‘Long Time Coming’ takes us down another soulful bayou root, the vocal harmonies and piano backing adding to the overall feel, and it all given full vent come the guitar solo. ‘Thin Ice’ is bass thumping, fidgety chinking guitars and skating on thin ice allegories about one’s behaviour.

Hitting the high notes with but the barest of guitar stokes underneath, ‘Fool Of You’ is soul-pitched R ’n B, and as harmony vocals ensue becomes funkier, bigger and broader in its approach. ‘Break Me’ opens with a 60s torch song approach, smouldering vocals following suit, then swinging towards a broader big ballad form. Finally, ‘Life’s Machine’ features broken guitar chords playing pretty but sad, a veneer of psychedelia and folk kept to the background but ever peering in as it builds up to something that wouldn’t be too off the wall to appear on a Pink Floyd album.

Overall, there’s a solid structure and the music diverse in a pleasing way, with noted respect due Clarke for his six-string approach. Their songs mostly revolve around the subject of love, there’s the air of youth about them, post-student life, the discovery of trying to make life work on your own terms and that admired naivety that eventually you’ll get it right. More power to them.

Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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