Brando – 943 Recluse

943 Recluse

It wouldn’t be difficult to draw comparisons between Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard and Brando head Derek Richey. Both are amazingly productive; both have traditionally eschewed high-fi production for a more lo-fi, organic sound; and both draw heavily from the pop music of the 60s. But Brando takes a different approach from Guided By Voices – although the band would likely appeal to GBV’s fans – both in Richey’s unique vocals and the low-key, psychedelic approach.
After 10 years and a host of releases, Brando is going back to the band’s original approach. After last year’s Single Crown Postcard showed a more textured, dense approach, 943 Recluse is back to basics, taking a simpler and more traditional recording path with a 4-track and fewer overdubs. More similar to the band’s The Headless Horseman is a Preacher, this album relishes in simple and strong guitar riffs, big, often booming rhythm, and Richey’s high-pitched, psychedelic-sounding vocals.
The album opens with the sometimes bombastic “Brooklyn” and runs the gambit from the psychedelic guitar scrawls of “Flamethrowerz” through the dreamy, almost ballad-like pop of “Abby Laine” (perhaps giving a hint of this band’s biggest influences?) to the thick, guitar-driven energy of “Goblin Market.” “Weave in Your Hair” is a light, playful pop song that Elephant 6 similarities, while the head-bobbing “Natural is Natural” takes a deceptively laid-back pace, in stark contrast to the distorted guitars and voice to the bigger rock sound of “Seine to the Rhine.” “Designed for Operations” and the thick guitar on “Shortwave” are very Guided By Voices in nature, and “Lemon-Lime” is a playful romp, even with a lighthearted “woo!” Perhaps the most psychedelic is the oddly soothing “Planes By Delta,” and without being psychedelic, “Nothing Doing” is the prettiest and gentlest song here.
I’ve said before that Brando’s albums really take a lot of listens to fully appreciate, unlike some of the more purely pop work of other like-minded bands. That’s because Richey’s voice takes a little getting used to, and the lo-fi sound hides impressive production work that really shines on repeated – and loud – listens with headphones. Like the best pop and psychedelic bands of old, this is a headphone album from start to finish.
After 10 years, Brando can do just about anything Richey and Co. want. Like Guided By Voices, Brando can throw out the lo-fi approach and layer on guitars and keys and vocals for a bigger studio effort or return to the simpler pop feel of the band’s early days. Either way, you’re guaranteed of getting strong, catchy, and unique pop songs that are retro minded and filled with little psychedelic flourishes. 943 Recluse is no exception, as the band has created another strong pop album.