Returning after 16 years and fully immersed in the so-called ‘emo revival’, Braid have released new album ‘No Coast’ via the ever-reliable Topshelf Records. Hailing from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the quartet’s last album was the seminal ‘Frame & Canvas’ in 1998, but after so long away, will the band be able to deliver new material that will be embraced by their loyal fanbase? Claiming it to be more of a ‘rebirth’ than ‘reunion’, hopes are certainly set high.
With Robert Nanna’s opening shout of ‘Bang’ on the song of the same name, you know the band was itching to get back in the game. Pulsating yet graceful guitar work opens the instrumentation while Braid sing about how ‘We don’t want waste time’ and how ‘I’m a runaway train’. As the song approaches the 2-minute mark, there is a dramatic shift up the gears and it begins to resemble indie legends like Grandaddy or even early Snow Patrol. ‘East End Hollows’ is back firmly in the emo territory, with addictive hooks and talk of punk rock shows being aided by a weary shout of ‘Another drink, another lifetime of regret’ and the rather knowing ‘you takes these dreams and throw them out the window’. It’s brutally honest but shows a band comfortable in their skin and is accompanied by wonderfully jangly Smiths-style guitar hooks.
The title track finds another downturn in tempo as the drums are pushed very much to the forefront. Expertly structured, the yearning emo lyrics continues with the line ‘I can’t let go’. Braid may have been away for a while, but their hearts still ache. There’s more of a Guided by Voices vibe on ‘Damages!’ that, in amidst a wall of guitar that resembles early Cribs, finds a passionate and melancholy delivery of ‘I’m in a terrible place sometimes, where I can’t stop touching my face’. The band have influenced many of today’s contemporaries around the world and there’s a touch of Moose Blood in the opening to ‘Many Enemies’ which has dual vocals that to and fro between questions and answers. This is a short and spiky song with an infectiously enthusiastic touch that also recalls elements of The Appleseed Cast.
‘Pre Evergreen’ and ‘Lux’ appear to be emo classics in waiting, while ‘Doing Yourself In’ is a searingly honest appraisal of a girl who appeared to have everything going for her at the age of just 23. Opening with the words ‘Whisky and crosswords’ – two things that are appealing to oh so many –the subject then turns decidedly bleak, yet there appears to be some fondness for the naivety of youth too: ‘Too young to know the difference between words whispered out of love and words we could have screamed so easily’. The last song on the album offers a rousing finale with the words ‘This is not a revolution’ sung over and over again, while the band also mention how ‘We wanna get over it all’. An album that is both mature and exuberant in equal measure, this is a welcome return for some of the elder statesmen of emo rock.