It’s hard for fans when a band they grew up with changes directions. Especially when that direction was edgy and set the band apart from others playing within the genre and then switches to something catchier, more accessible, and commercial so all of the rewards of that direction can be gained.
The new Brandtson album Hello, Control strikes me this way. In an effort to sever the comparisons to early Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, and Mineral, Brandtson bandmates Jered Jolley, Myk Porter, Matt Traxler, and Adam Boose, who has replaced original bassist John Sayre, have entered the commercial pop world with a splash on Hello, Control. For diehard followers of the group, the change won’t be easily digestible, but Brandtson’s new emphasis on jangly guitars, pounding keyboard rhythms, and danceable beats will likely garner them a huge group of tweeny adherents. From that standpoint, Hello, Control is actually a pretty good album.
Throughout Hello, Control, the band successfully escapes into mixes that sound like Depeche Mode or New Order smacking into Franz Ferdinand. This may be a result of Boose’s synth work, which creates a poppier landscape upon which Jolley, Traxler, and Porter play upon. Jolley and Porter’s vocals still blend extremely well as the band traverses a musical terrain of the apocalyptic, beat oriented “Earthquakes and Sharks” to the oversimplified computerized croon of “Nobody Dances Anymore.” In each song, Jolley’s complex textures swirl around Boose’s electronic effects that create moody, substantial instrumental parts to support the brooding lyrics. While the direction is different than the bands previous outings, there’s a lot for new fans to sink their teeth into.
Hello, Control is a statement of intent by a band reinventing their sound and reinvigorating themselves, finding a sound and losing one simultaneously. It is a paean to the notion that a band can stretch and grow after so many years of being locked into one genre. Brandtson surpassed the shelf life of most alternative bands years ago and like so many of their predecessors, the musical choices made by Brandtson on this album reflect the band member’s current state of mind. That the band can assert itself this way is refreshing in a market that favors the safety of the pigeon-holed.
Perhaps some of Brandtson’s original fans will come back to them as the band wends their way through the usual twists and turns of the rock music industry. Even if the direction has changed, the fiery sparkle that made the band attractive in the first place will remain and lead to more fascinating endeavors for this band. So to those who are waving goodbye to the long lost sound of Brandtson, don’t give up so soon. Give Hello, Control a few more spins on your CD players and iPods. You may actually find yourself exclaiming the album is better than you first thought and you’ll come to appreciate more of what this band can offer.