Album Review Music

Review: Braid – Closer To Closed

Braid – Closer To Closed (Polyvinyl Records 2011)

From 1993 to 1999 emo pioneers (back when emo wasn’t a dirty word) Braid tore through the post punk world with catchy, chugging riffs, layered with slightly off kilter guitars and slightly off kilter vocal melodies.  But these songs built a memorable scene that went missing about 10 years ago.  Braid’s last formal full length “Frames and Canvas” still gets heavy play from me with its stop start opener “New Nathan Detroits” it had several songs that I considered to be ear worms.  A brief reunion tour in 2004 is the last we saw of Braid until now.

Four song ep “Closer to Closed” opens up with “The Right Time”  sung by secondary vocalist Chris Broach.  Frankly, it sounds nothing like Braid, but it sounds a lot like the 2000’s emo bands that littered the scene with boring pseudo-emotional music.  This song would fit perfectly on a “Sunday’s Best” album, but it is not Braid.  Where are the noisy off kilter guitar riffs?  Where is the tense, tightly wound vocals or fist pumping anthems?  They have been sadly replaced with half-hearted, half tempo pop/punk and I use that term loosely.  The dueling guitar parts are gone, instead they have two mostly uninteresting guitar lines that are mixed together in a bland wash of sound.

The next three songs, all sung by Bob Nanna are cut from the same cloth as the first.  Sounding as if they were throw aways from Nanna’s post Braid project “Hey Mercedes”.  The way the songs are sung and played sound like the band is not that interested in their own music.  “Do Over” is missing every vital aspect of the original flavor of the band and you can hear them try desperately to capture the sound again in the last 30 seconds of the song, but they fall well short.  Nanna sings in the chorus “I want a Do Over, Do Over”, makes me wonder if he is referring to this Ep…….

“You Are The Reason” is an obscure cover of a Jeff Hanson song (don’t worry I had to look up the name as well) and while it seems to be a faithful cover, it doesn’t scream Braid.  It once again belongs nested quite nicely on a Hey Mercedes album with the rest of these songs.  EP closer “Universe of Worse” has the slight stutter step that was trademark Braid, but it is still very, very far away from what made the band interesting.  The song seems to lose its direction about midway through and you forget about it at the same time.

Why they stuck the “Braid” tag on these songs instead of “Hey Mercedes” is most likely a marketing thing more than anything else.  They know that the Braid name will sell a lot more than that of any of the post Braid output, so why not.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a return to form for a once great band.

Score – 5.0/10

8 Comments

  • I clearly remember Hey Mercedes and I also remember not being particularly impressed.

    Meehan

  • It’s different, thats for sure, but i remember Braid having to grow on me. Also, they are older now, so maturity has set it I also remember reading that they said it was where the band was heading…

    anyway, i like it.

  • i have to respectfully disagree with this review. if you listen to their entire discography, you could easily see that this ep is the next logical progression after songs like “you’re lucky to be alive” or “forever got shorter” however they’re not 20, they have little to yell about, they said themselves its just about having a good time and seeing what comes of things. bands simply cant stay the same, especially after 13 years (and thats based on their LAST recorded release) they stuck a “braid” tag on these songs because it is BRAID. whether or not it seems subdued (some might say more mature), chris brings something to the fold that is unmistakable and original to them. people will undoubtedly hear elements from their later projects because they have all generally been in the same vein. if its not “weird” or angsty enough for some people i feel sorry for them, because they’re letting themselves miss out on a great Braid record, I for one hope this is just the beginning of things to come.

  • I appreciate your comment, but how is it the next logical step? The next logical step was for them to break up, which they did. The last recording session was “Please Drive Faster” which carried the Frames and Canvas torch and “Circus Of The Stars” which was a crappy b-side. The logical thing for them to do was to continue Hey Mercedes but to even call this ep a Hey Mercedes disc would be a disgrace to that name. This is a very unoriginal and boring ep.

  • like i said, chris makes it braid. it just isn’t hey mercedes, and i loved hey mercedes. but even they weren’t hey mercedes after mark dawursk left the band. that isn’t to say all bands rely on their original members, obviously braid has had different eras with roy and damon on drums. even trying other singers early on. but lets be honest, they didn’t come into their own until the damon joined (which isn’t to say i don’t love age of octeen). the songs were a little catchier afterwards. yeah this is WAY poppier than one would assume coming from them even so, but i just find it refreshing… as im sure they do. there is a distinct chemistry between bob and chris as guitar players that shines through to me on this release, even if it is a little different, maybe thats because i’m a guitar player and i pay more attention to that aspect initially. but i didn’t say this was the next step. i said this is a progression, however maybe not the most logical to all. the steps they made are obvious as heard in hey mercedes and the firebird band (etc) but again, its been over a decade. i’m glad they took those steps however, i found something enjoyable in all their post braid projects. but this is indeed a culmination of their experience as the essential members of braid, post- those musical, and life experiences. again just my opinion. but i also like “circus of the stars,” so there you go.

  • I am a bit irritated by all of the discontent with this EP. I think it is quite solid. It is no Age of Octeen, Frame and Canvas, or Franke Welfare Boy, but an admirable release by a phemonenal band reunited. It is true that it is missing the youthful aggression and perhaps some of the emotive force of stand out Braid tracks like “Please Drive Faster” and “Milwaukee Skyrocket”, but as someone mentions earlier, they are older and are clearly carrying the experience of Hey Mercedes, The Firebird Band, The City on Film etc. with them (especially in vocal delivery, in my opinion). I think it’s great start to finish, although it’s a bit of a crescendo for me, with the B side of the 45 RPM 10″ considerably better than the A. The kicker for me is the last track, “Universe or Worse.” The percussion is superb, with the signature syncopated drum beats of Damon Atkinson paired with layered guitar tracks expertly recorded by J Robbins. Clearly some of you haven’t listened to this one attentively enough yet.

  • I have listened to it very attentively and still think it is very very boring. I really dig J Robbins but he cannot save a song from being boring. The percussion is sufficient but doesn’t “wow”. He is a solid drummer, but all those things are fine and dandy and don’t change the fact that the songs sound tired and bland

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