The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Record Review

Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, September 21, 2001, Music


This Is BR5-49 (Arista)

Somebody got to BR5-49. "Boys, you got to work on your image if you want to really get somewhere in this business. We'll get you guys some new hair, get rid of those vintage clothes (people keep calling you retro), and get you some serious songs." That's jumping to conclusions, of course; maybe they did it on their own. Nonetheless, This Is BR5-49 finds a band that's trying to reinvent themselves. There are some choice covers here, as usual: a driving version of the Everly Brothers' "The Price of Love" and Harlan Howard's "Let's See How Far You Get." There's also the easygoing swing of their take on the Nick Lowe chestnut "Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)." What's gone, however, is much of BR5-49's offhand, aww-shucks earnestness, in favor of somber ruminations on life ("The Game"), the differently abled ("Different Drum"), and the evening news ("A Little Good News"). Though the more weighty songs are certainly well-written and even thought-provoking, they also lose a good bit of the engaging hookiness that BR5-49 is so good at. To be sure, there are glimmers here and there, like the sublime "Psychic Lady," a hard-luck tale for all the TV Miss Cleos of the world, and the jumpy honky-tonk of "Fool of the Century." As always, the playing is excellent and the production immaculate (maybe a bit much so), but one thing's for sure; this is a band that's in transition. Maybe after a few more listens, This Is BR5-49 will be as fun as what we're been used to, but it's gonna take some adjusting.


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