Chris Brokaw – My Confidante + 3 EP

Chris Brokaw
My Confidante + 3 EP

Like his equally unassuming comrade Doug McCombs (Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day) in acoustic instrumentalist “super-group’ Pullman, Chris Brokaw is finally finding a firm footing for his own distinctive songcraft. In the same way that McCombs has so superbly stamped down his individualised imprint with Brokeback (especially on last year’s deeply lovely Looks at the Bird long-player), Brokaw – after years of playing on/off with Come, Codeine, Evan Dando, The New Year, Steve Wynn, Consonant, Pullman, and others – has been highlighting his remarkable talents as a solo artiste extraordinaire. Showing off both his fluent instrumental prowess (with 2002’s one-man and wordless debut Red Cities) and his power as an instinctive troubadour (on last year’s exceptional vocal-led Wandering as Water), Brokaw has revealed that his years as a solid sideman have been well spent on creative grooming. Now comes this more than substantial – but crucially not overfilling – interim snack to further emphasis this self-awakening.
Those who managed to find the aforementioned European-only Wandering as Water, will be familiar with the titular track here, a classic tale of betrayal, defiance, and revenge straight from the darkest end of the Brokaw songbook. With its pile-driving guitars and ragged drums, it’s a little overwrought compared to the Wandering… incarnation, but it’s still good to hear Brokaw hasn’t lost any of agility for full-throttle offensives. A feeling that’s backed-up even more passionately on the second cut of this four-tracker – “1000 mph” (the first of three previously unknown/unreleased songs composed by all-female friends of Brokaw) – written by ex-Come collaborator Thalia Zedek. With its sludge of Mudhoney-flavoured guitars, heavy-blues drumming, and Brokaw’s menacing monotone vocal, the song would have sounded brilliant on Come’s overlooked 1998 finale Gently Down the Stream.
Dropping straight out of the sonic debris with the third track, Brokaw treats us to a laconic laid-back interpretation of a hitherto unheard Liz Phair song – “In Love With Yourself.” With its nagging parental-advisory hooks, delivered with a smidgen of Evan Dando’s self-deprecation, Brokaw manages to simultaneously rescue Phair’s currently derided songcraft from the mire, whilst highlighting his oft-overlooked sense of mischief. But the undoubted key delight of this bittersweet four-part collection is saved to last with “Across the Blue,” a song part-authored by Boston poet, visual artist, and Mission of Burma collaborator Holly Anderson. Over a wash of shimmering, tremulous, and twangy guitars, ocean-bed trawling bass, and a gentle percussion patter, Brokaw proves himself as a master of understated dream-like beauty, with a lyric he truly makes his own.
So if this is just a between album filler then the next full-length Chris Brokaw outing should – such musical ambition withstanding – be his killer set. Until then, this EP comes with satisfaction guaranteed.