Earth is Pretty Good

In naming third Brakes album Touchdown, front man Eamon Hamilton, clearly feels they’re on to a winner. The impending April 2009 release of Touchdown crowns a successful relocation for Brighton-based Brakes, from Rough Trade Records to fellow Brighton label FatCat.

A month after signing with FatCat, Touchdown was recorded at the legendary Glasgow studio, Chem 19, before being mastered in New York with the esteemed Alan Douches. Building on the success of two well received albums, 2005’s Give Blood and 2007’s Beatific Visions, Touchdown is a more generally upbeat collective. As Hamilton says: “It’s a bit more hopeful this one. Not so full of rage.” Nowhere is this newfound optimism more evident than in first single Hey Hey, whichHamilton describes as“a happy rocker.” While the lyrics are not the most multi-faceted, Tom White and Mark Beatty on guitar and bass come straight in with joyous riffs to make this two-minute pop song punky, rocky and good fun.

Their lighthearted nature and ability to not take themselves too seriously is an enduring Brakes trait. Don’t Take Me To Space (Man) is the probable follow up single to Hey Hey, the title juxtaposition of “space” and “man” add a self-conscious touch of humour to otherwise sweet and earnest lyrics. “Don’t take me to space…man/I’ve had a taste of true love/I don’t care that this world’s corrupted/I don’t want to be abducted”, both funny and heartfelt, Don’t Take Me To Space (Man) encapsulates Brakes’ take on the human condition. With the world’s shortcomings recognised, meaning and redemption are possible by inhabiting the immediate and in the relationships we form with others. As Hamilton muses: “We want to stay on earth, because earth is pretty good.”

Citing influences as diverse as Little Richard to Leadbelly, the relentless guitar drone of Oh! Forever is derivative of the Jesus and Mary Chain while final track Leaving England has a countrified folk feel reminiscent of Mark Knophler’s solo work. Ending the album on a country note points to the direction Brakes may turn next, with Hamilton definitively hinting: “We definitely want to release a country song at some point.”

The easy rhyme of the lyrics imbues Touchdown with an effortless ease, belying how much of a wrench the songwriting process is for Hamilton. “It makes me a bit sick when I write, I don’t like it that much. But afterwards it’s nice.” Describing the writing process as a cathartic release, this was evident in 2008 song Cheney. Venting his political feeling, “the George Bush presidency was scary for everyone, and it made me really angry that everyone accepted it. At the same time, I don’t enjoy the sound of protest songs, so we decided to make ours only seven seconds long.”

If writing is arduous, Brakes love touring. Before taking a break to write the album, the group was on tour consistently for almost five years. “We had a breather, and it was great. Touring is fun, but when you’re three feet from each other for a year, it kind of does your nut in. We took a break, recharged the batteries, and now we’re back on tour. This is what we love doing.”

Touchdown was released on 20 April 2009.

Samantha Cracknell