The Bravery were a song and a video but definitely not an album. Goodness, why would I buy that? They weren’t my thing at all, so I thought. My opinion was based on nothing other than a photograph of them in NME. Back in the noughties, I tended to identify what I liked and hated through the most ridiculous means. If a singer wore a sweater I hated, they clearly made bad music. I once turned on an agent for being a fan of The Kooks (and that’s why I’m still writing books on small independent publishers). Looking back, I loved The Noughties. All those striped t-shirts, Converse, and leather jackets. Did I wear them? Absolutely not. But I like a scene where you can identify various tribes. I’m happy to know a time and place by the clothes in the photograph or the album cover. That period of time happened in the dying days of the CD album being £13.99 in Virgin Records and Tower Records being a destination you could visit on your music buying sprees. It was when The Strokes were on the scene, remaking the scene, ground zero. Farewell Travis! Goodbye Nu-Metal! The chapter before Arctic Monkeys when everyone wanted to move to New York. In the backwash came The Killers, who broke through spectacularly. Chart music really is a perfect democracy. Incidentally, I disliked Brandon for wearing a jacket I felt didn’t suit him and for being pious. Yes, seriously. Now, I listen to the first Killers album and now I realise why they were so successful. It’s a brilliant record. The Rakes were out and about and I loved them. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s debut was my thing and I listened obsessively, worshipping at their cool alter. There was Lolita Storm, a bubblegum blast of punk fury and pop melody, a perfect group who would slap each other during interviews over whether they were feminist or not. Electroclash was my thing too. Music was vast and anything was listenable providing they had the special aura that appealed to me. Or a nice sweater. Franz Ferdinand always dressed great, which is one particular reason I loved them.
The Bravery arrived as The Next Big Thing, an honour bestowed on them by BBC Sound, which annually curses artists with their plaudit. Poor Little Boots, destroyed in one fell swoop because of hype she couldn’t possibly live up to! That put me off them. And then… well, I decided to just try their album out. Why not? I wanted to be less judgemental. It wasn’t serving me particularly well in life and I’d made a conscious decision to not immediately hate the next big fad in music. So I listened and I liked what I heard. A fizzy synthpop record with dour vocals was the sort of thing I could completely enjoy. They looked like a band I’d support. They wore black eyeliner. No-one smiled. Sam Endicott seemed like a proper frontman. There was a guitarist named Mike Dirt. Why didn’t I get into them earlier? They feuded with The Killers and gave as good as they got, which deepened the appeal. When Brandon Flowers of The Killers insulted Sam Endicott for being in a Ska band, it later transpired that Ronnie Vannucci Jr. had played drums in a Ska band. Raised on The Battle of Britpop and literary feuds populated by tongue wizards with lethal one-liners, I appreciated the effort. Actually, The Bravery’s debut album put me in mind of Depeche Mode or a dour Duran Duran. Hot Pursuit (a UK bonus track) received more play from me than the main singles. Overall, I liked their album and wanted to support them as a fan.
Then came their second album. They totally transformed themselves and I understand reinvention is part of artistic longevity but…they looked like they worked part-time at GAP. What happened to the eye-liner? Where were the leather jackets? The gloomy yet catchy songs? Okay, they might have been over styled and wanted a change but it felt like they were trying to appease critics rather than treading their own path. Or maybe their debut was never really them at all, in which case this was their true identity, both musical and visual? It didn’t work. They couldn’t withstand the pressure of BBC Sound and the sudden change in their fortune with the label stuck them in limbo. Years later, they reverted to their original perspective and released a rather good album called Stir The Blood, which sounds like the sequel to their debut. I saw them at The ABC in Glasgow and it was great. They were great. And then… They were gone, splintering off into other bands and projects. Sometimes I think about their debut and I even listen to it on occasion. I think about a lot of these bands who were meant to be massive but didn’t quite get there. The Drums, for instance. The journey of a band is never always an easy one, just like the journey of a fan. It took me a while, but I’m glad I listened to The Bravery.