Brooklawn – The Land of Stolen Bicycles EP

Brooklawn
The Land of Stolen Bicycles EP

I love the Detroit-area music scene. It seems that every time I meet someone new, they end up being in a band or knowing someone else that’s in a band who they introduce me to, and I end up stumbling upon some really good music because of it. I absolutely love this disorganized, accidental networking method that seems to have developed in my favor over the last few years or so.
At a few Lisboa shows and ‘gatherings’ that I attended during 2002, I constantly ran into Mike Housman, a really nice, intelligent, and rather big guy who was really into music (and also happened to have a shaved head that made him look like he could kick my ass without a moment’s notice). I didn’t really give it a second thought, especially after my car died and pretty much killed any barlife that I had been attempting to build for myself. Flash forward a few months, and someone tells me that this Mike guy is in a band called Brooklawn. I knew he played guitar, so I figured, hey, might as well go hunt down some MP3s or something and check the band out.
Well, eventually, words were exchanged through the rather incestuous grapevine that is the Downriver Detroit music collective, and voices carried enough that someone ever-so-graciously hooked me up with a copy of Brooklawn’s latest EP, The Land of Stolen Bicycles. I guess because of the fact that Mike was big and bald, I expected some thrash-ass hardcore guitar project. Instead, what I ended up getting was a very surprising and really good 18 minutes of solid, somewhat melodic guitar rock here.
Of course, the hitch is that Brooklawn isn’t a typical everyday bar-room rock band. The guitar riffs are catchy, though not completely poppy, even though the guitars themselves are pretty meaty for the most part. The vocals lean towards the more ’emo’ end of the musical spectrum, as Aaron Kasenow’s restrained, almost quivering voice swells over the course of the songs into strong vocal calls that actually break into coarse, full-blown hollering at times. The hoarse ‘scrape’ of Kasenow’s more inflected syllables adds a dynamic of urgency to the songs, which are really driven by the two crunching rhythm guitars.
The rhythm section itself is solid throughout the EP, which is where the high quality of the mix comes into play with the recording. The upbeat bass seems to be mixed ‘up’ a bit, so it actually stands out as the driving force of most of the songs. The guitars actually seem to flutter around the bass – that is, until the most driving moments of the tracks, when they pick up an extra crunch that usually backs Kasenow’s more hoarse moments. Despite his namesake, drummer Brian Wimpy’s work here is more than capable, although it took a few listens to really nail down how well the drumming anchors the tracks (seeing as the apparent focus is more on the bass, guitars and vocals).
“Sounds Good on Paper” opens the EP with a delicate guitar opening that seems to push Kasenow’s almost hesitant voice to be heard. Once the rhythm section kicks in, the guitars turn up considerably, almost as if they’re suddenly realizing they’re in competition with Kasenow’s voice, which has suddenly developed a harsh, throaty quality. “Proteus” takes a bit more laid-back approach, sitting back on a staggered riff for a few before the guitars lay out the power chorus, complete with more of Kasenow’s intense vocals.
The best example of Brooklawn’s sound, however, comes on “Beginnings and Endings,” which quickly bursts into a really upbeat rhythm that drags the hoarse syllables out of Kasenow right from the start. The guitars are tops here, jumping from chugging riffs to quick, almost lead-guitar noodles and back, while in spots, Kasenow just flat out dumps the hoarse calls and simply sings, letting the guitars supply the song’s crunch for a bit. “Friday Night Funeral” closes the EP out nicely, a five-minute plus meandering that relies more on the tunefulness of the guitars rather than the ‘crunch’ showcased on the previous three tracks. This does drop the intensity level just a bit (for the most part), though the vocals grind a bit on the choruses and the guitars pick up the burn appropriately at track’s end for a very nice (but unexpected) guitar solo.
The best part about Brooklawn is that even when Kasenow’s ‘got his yell on’ and the guitars are more aggressive, the upbeat basslines still keep the songs in the toe-tapper realm. There aren’t any pop-radio style hooks here, but the band’s riffs and guitar interplay are catchy enough in their own right. Hell, even Kasenow’s yelling stays in-tune with the tracks, creating another one of those strange dichotomies where a band shouldn’t sound quite as melodic as they do, but they pull it off anyways. The Land of Stolen Bicycles may not convert anyone who doesn’t go for this sorta stuff (**this is the part where I glare at the holier-than-thou ‘scensters’**), but it’s damned good stuff regardless.