Brazil's Philosophy
By
David Jackson
1/8/2007 12:08:44 AM

Is there really much existentialism in a vector quantity? At first glance, it seems like the band Brazil named their new album The Philosophy of Velocity [Immortal] just because it sounds cool. On closer inspection, though, it becomes clear that the title is oddly fitting – intriguing, promising, and thoroughly indecipherable. Brazil's sound is often tagged as progressive rock, but that glosses over the remarkable straightforwardness of their songwriting – their songs stick to something of a normal verse-chorus-verse structure, and not one track on this album goes over seven minutes. Also, there's not much of the elaborate solo work that decks out more securely progressive albums (see, for instance, The Mars Volta's Frances The Mute). Still, the album's lyrics are fascinatingly cryptic and vaguely dark, and it comes together pretty well.

Track by track, the album shifts from harder rock to slower, low-key fare. Each song has its own distinct atmosphere, appropriately punctuated by little touches of ambient noise. Take the intro track, “On Safe Cracking and Rubella,” for example, with its piano solo overlaid with the tapping of typewriter keys; it’s probably no coincidence this image mirrors the album's cover, featuring a man sitting at a typewriter surrounded by crumpled papers on the floor. “Safe Cracking” soon gives way to the song, “Crime (And The Antique Solution)”, loaded with crashing drums and vocal harmony. “The Vapours” uses great dynamic contrast between the song's parts and keyboard backing on the chorus to get a trippy, out-of-this-world feeling. On “Captain Mainwaring”, the band even manages to convey an aquatic setting by mixing the quiet guitars with the sound of bubbling water and seagull-like sirens in the background.

I wish I could tell you what, precisely, Philosophy is about, but, frankly I have no idea. There's sort of a retro-versus-sci-fi theme going on, but it's very abstract. Some really great lyrics come out of this now and then, like the hook from “Crime”: “Is it called a crime if I play with time? All the shame it brings changes everything.” The beginning of “Strange Days,” the album's closer, also comes to mind: “There's a room inside my finger where ghosts of authors linger.” These lines are interesting on paper, but the impassioned delivery (along with the great ambient setup on each track) really increases their impact. The band's obvious willingness to take the album seriously resonates, and makes it possible for listeners to follow suit. As to a deeper meaning, it seems likely not even the band knows the album's story: Vocalist Jonathon Newby said in a recent interview that he wrote the album while “enamored with the concept of absurdity” and that it therefore contains “absurd subject matter, absurd lyrics, and absurd volume.”

Brazil has room to improve, but for a sophomore effort, they've done a fine job on The Philosophy of Velocity. Between typewriters and time travel, there's a nice, solid rock album in here.


If you're interested in Brazil, check out this page on their website, where their song, “Crime (And The Antique Solution)” is available for free (right-click, “Save As” to download):

http://www.braziltheband.com/media/tune/tune_000006_tune.mp3


Also, the band's Purevolume page has many streaming samples:

http://www.purevolume.com/brazil/

 

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