If there’s one band that deserves your undivided attention this year, it’s Brawlers. This punk rock super-group of sorts (featuring alumni of grunge-rock bastards, Dinosaur Pile-Up and the mouth-frothing splatter-chaos of Castrovalva) released the excellent I Am A Worthless Piece Of Shit last year (reviewed on this very website) and after some extensive touring, a line-up change (hello new drummer!) their debut album, Romantic Errors Of Our Youth, has blinked into existence.
An autobiographical streak runs through Brawlers’ sound – from the brisk story-telling of Annabel to the girl-chasing bounce of Two Minutes and the drunken bar room chant of the album’s title track, hearts are very much being held up to your face, with the bloody viscera dripping all down your front.
For instance, the aforementioned album opener, Annabel, begins with the line “we’ve been playing some shows for a while and been having some nights on the tiles…” followed by “there’s a lot of blood in this band of ours, and we’ve shared a few tears in the bars…” which subtly gives a nod to the pressures of this lifestyle and the hard times the band have gone through recently. “We’ve made a record, so I won’t waste your time” states vocalist Harry George Johns, quickly rushing to proclaim his love for the mysterious ‘Annabel’ amidst this spirited pop-rock bounce of wild elation. The scuzzy, scything romp of Don’t Drink and Dial highlights the plight of unrequited love in a very matter-of-fact and “you live and learn, huh!” kind of way that really seems to (sadly for him) speak from Johns’ heart.
Brawlers have excelled themselves with the most infectious, vibrant and electrifying collection of songs I’ve heard this year..
The bass-driven rumble of Holding Back is rampant pop-punk delight – born from frustration, topped off with dishevelled, scribbled guitars, whilst the summer-grunge bounce of the smiling High Again, is pure Weezer-meets-Lagwagon, both in its earnestness and skate-rock tone. A curve-ball is thrown via the scrambled genre-smash-up of N.O.R.E.S.T. – it’s a ramshackle party song, built from disjointed guitar lines, pessimism – “I’ve been out of luck for so long!” chants Johns, his voice distorted and scrambled by a scrapping fuzz, with the last 20 seconds ending in a breathless rush of abrupt, garage-rock shredding. The anthemic 90’s Green Day-bulldozer of Two Minutes is a stonking blast of fevered and zealous elation, running on that rollercoaster of a bass guitar, it thunders along the tracks with teeth-rattling speed, churning with emotion and (possible one-sided) declarations of love.
“I was a cannonball, I drank too much…can we forget it all? Let’s stay in touch...” states Johns on the Black Flag-baiting (I’m Having A) Nervous Breakdown, the possible partner to the booze-regretting Drink And Dial. It’s another mic-swinging blast of sugary good fun that will grab you by the shoulders, roaring for your attention, especially on the Jamie Lenman-esque scream at the end – superb. The old-school emo-rock fuzz of Windowmisser is another suitable anthem for the frustrated; its crisp and direct honesty drips with sweet-melodic punk rock determination and shows that these old (or should that be young?) romantics have an glass half-full side. Whatever the case, Windowmisser is an absolute classic; it sounds like it should have been recorded 20 years ago – the guitars have that haunting, shimmering whine of The Promise Ring, mixed with the warm discordant riffs of Jawbreaker.
“You’re all partied out, you’re all partied out...” chants Johns on Medicine; his rapid fire delivery over this full on punk rock assault showcases that Brawlers are far from tired or ready to hang up their guitars; if there’s still beer to down and music to bang your head to, they’re at the front, orchestrating the madness. As the gang-vocal bear hug of the title track hits home, (bringing to mind elements of Pennywise’s Bro Hymn), Brawlers conclude what has been one hell of a barmy and exciting head-rush.
Romantic Errors Of Our Youth takes the delirious and refreshing chug of beer that was the I Am A Worthless Piece Of Shit EP and slams a whole crate of the stuff into your arms and demands you get cracking. Brawlers have excelled themselves with the most infectious, vibrant and electrifying collection of songs I’ve heard this year – you’d have to scour the planet very carefully to find a better punk rock album of the summer, maybe even the year, as this is utterly essential. Good luck prying it out of your CD player, because it will start to grow roots.