Considering its pretentiously dark title, Stir the Blood, The Bravery’s latest album is kind of a letdown. The cover art, which features ravenous birds shadowed by a black background, seemed more promising than the generic music it contained.
Stir the Blood is like a combination of mediocre ’80s club music and The Cure (although that may be attributed to the fact that lead vocalist Sam Endicott sounds quite similar to Robert Smith — their voices share that drawling quality). Overall, Stir the Blood is perfect music for a techno club or an obscure house party. The songs have the ability to discreetly bleed together with no discernable distinction among them. And for all purposes such as dancing on a Saturday night, that’s just fine. Beyond this, however, the album is rather lacking in aesthetic value.
Few songs are very catchy, while everything else just has a good beat. In certain songs Endicott even seems to attempt profoundness with his lyrics, but their vagueness and ambiguity trump his effort. The song “HateFuck,” for instance, is racy, provocative and possibly about rape, containing lines such as “You can tear your nails into my skin/ You won’t stop me” and “Naked and breathless/ Could you live with this disgrace?” Oddly enough, these shockingly blatant lyrics are presented so nonchalantly that one could passively listen to this song and completely gloss over its meaning.
In two of the songs on the album, and for roughly 20-second intervals, The Bravery attempts to redeem somewhat of a rock ‘n’ roll status with legitimate (albeit incredibly brief) guitar solos. In addition to this are a few token songs that break away from the party dynamic. “She’s So Bendable” is a sweet and mellow song with simplistic lyrics and an incredibly chilled-out melody. The fact that it is sandwiched between two rave songs, however, is puzzling and lessens its effect. Such is also the case for the CD’s closing track, “Sugar Pill,” whose placid tune and lyrics toy with the concept of a drug-altered state of mind, even dropping a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” reference, “I have kaleidoscope eyes.” It is difficult to comprehend why an album that is predominantly electronica party music would choose to end with a psychedelic soft-rock song. If Stir the Blood is an album of the generic party sort, why did the band choose to slip in random and spontaneous bits of music that conflict with this idea?
It would seem The Bravery’s aim with this new album was to appeal to the masses. But there were points in the album when they failed to commit to that aim. The fact that these rare and shining moments even exist demonstrates the musicians’ obvious capacity for greatness, but they stop themselves short by keeping these moments as modest as possible. Because these songs are clearly targeted at a generic audience and non-specific clubbing atmosphere, they are wanting for uniqueness and originality. When The Bravery made the decision to appeal to the most mainstream of listeners, they simultaneously surrendered and stifled their creative potential.
2 stars out of 5.