Like a lot of young bands trying to make their mark, the Atlanta conceived, NYC executed band Brother Reverend – founded by Keith Xenos with drummer Fletcher Liegerot (Cat Power) – puts a boatload of sarcastic hipster attitude in their presentation. In the “Our Story” section of their Facebook page, we’re greeted with “Nausea, increased appetite, weight loss, weight gain, loss of sexual desire, inappropriate sexual advances. . .drowsiness, hyperactivity. . .loudmouth. . .heavy sedation…”
Not much there to guide us, so it’s best to just smirk and start listening to the crisp, jangly, offbeat, angular, spirited, funky, soulful, wistful rocky, poppy and HOOKY songs – all 13 of them! – on their debut The Tables Turn Too Often. Four years in the making and analog recorded and mixed, it’s hard to peg genre-wise but superbly crafted and ultra engaging. There are a lot of influences at play, from 60’s British Invasion chords (think Ray Davies without the jackets) to raw early Dylanesque vocals, lighthearted Beach Boys-iish lilt and enough appreciation for the groove and flow of R&B to make us think that the spirit of Curtis Mayfield was perhaps manning the analog machine.
These guys are a bit too dark, brooding and rambunctiously brash to be thought of as R&B, but their founding credos are all about attending the old school. Keith, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of the group, can’t get enough of The Miracles. He set his intention early on to make a record better than Diana Ross & The Supreme’s Love Child. And he says that everything has to pass the “Ray Charles Test,” meaning that if he can’t imagine him singing it, the song gets scrapped.
We can leave whether any of these songs do just that to the listener’s wandering ears, but it’s hard not to dig a jangling, tempo shifting soul/rocker like “The Tables Turn Too Often,” a sensual and heartfelt traditional country flavored ballad a la “Anything New” or a slice of quirky harmonic cool like “Monkee.” Then wait till you get to those retro keyboards and twangy rock of “Used Food” and the playful R&B/island music influenced rocker “Charles Ng” – named after a notorious serial killer. The coolness and oddities just keep coming, and you won’t be able to resist a minute.