Rating – 5/5
A good album will make you sit up straight and pay attention. Perhaps it resonates with you lyrically, maybe it reminds you of something from your past, or it could just give you shivers with its pure musicality.
Brave Faces, Everyone peels back the lid on the human condition and shoves you headfirst into the disturbing and often upsetting reality that lies under the surface. It grabs, nay demands, your attention and drags you through an utterly visceral and devastating experience. It’s one hell of a bleak ride, strap in.
Spanish Love Songs turn their gaze outward to the existential nightmare which they seem to perpetually inhabit with their own desolate, mature brand of Punk. The exploration ranges from introspective self-loathing to desperate recognition of seemingly hopeless circumstances.
Every track is nitrous fuelled and hard-driving; you can practically feel Dylan Slocum’s hands shaking with adrenaline as his vocals ricochet between a subdued wavering delivery to a defiant strangled shout. It’s almost as if he’s preparing for a physical confrontation, facing down an opponent in a hopelessly one-sided fight. The relentlessly demoralizing lyrics are beautifully juxtaposed against the instrumentation; feverish drumming, hard riffs and almost soaring euphoric guitar lines sweep you along the world’s most melancholy rollercoaster.
‘Routine Pain’ sets the tone with a great establishing lyric “On any given day I’m a 6 of 10” Slocum disinterestedly sings; it’s an ironic platitude designed to mask the frankly wretched content to follow. A nice straight-up punk jam to warm up. ‘Self Destruction…’ chronicles an internal struggle. “It won’t be this bleak forever” chimes in a helpful voice; “Yeah, right” replies the downtrodden narration. Anyone who’s ever been visited by intrusive thoughts in the darkness will recognize the fears explored on ‘Generation Loss’. The track puts into words so many of those thoughts that most of us would prefer to hide in the recesses of our minds.
Similarly ‘Kick’ dives deeply into drug abuse, shame, and guilt. Slocum narrates a story of cyclical patterns, poverty and ultimately a form of survivor’s guilt from being unable to help his friend. The sparse, chorus laden guitar intro on ‘Beach Front Property’ shows off some really slick production. The track is held together by a clean shimmering tone against a backdrop of washy hi-hats and smooth interspersed baselines. It’s reminiscent of The Wonder Years’ work on ‘Sister Cities’ and ‘No Closer To Heaven’; high praise from a self-confessed fan.
There’s no respite on ‘Losers’. The old “it gets easier” trope in relation to mental health recovery is mercilessly needled. “It gets harder doesn’t it?”, Slocum asks a question he probably already knows the answer to. The level of disassociation displayed is almost frightening, as on ‘Optimism (As a Radical Life Choice)’ “Don’t take me out back and shoot me / I know my circuits are faulty”
Slocum regards himself as almost inhuman, a busted automaton, yet still pleads for his life he seems so desperately disconnected from. It’s a commonality seen throughout the record, an almost masochistic self-loathing, yet there’s a resigned acknowledgement that there is no alternative.
Whatever brief desire there was to continue living on the previous track is cruelly dashed with ‘Losers 2’. The fragility of our situations is explored, any semblance of security in life is something easily dashed in the face of our mortality.
‘Dolores’ the classic song named after a girl on every punk record song. But oh wait it actually translates as ‘pains’ in Spanish; an expression of deep sorrow or suffering. Huh, pretty interesting. It’s that kind of thinking and commitment to a concept that just puts these guys ahead of their peers right now.
The titular ‘Brave Faces, Everyone’ is a summation thematically and also musically. The outros borrow lines from the previous songs on the album, it’s a really clever mini medley to play us out. “I swear to God, I’m an optimist,” Slocum announces; he’s either expressing a dark, fractured irony, a sort of gallows humor or maybe, just maybe if the world has no inherent empathy it’s up to humans to keep the faith.
In the end, humanity is the silver lining, however faint, that we should cling to. Do yourself a favor and check out this record, take away from it what you will but one thing is for certain it will leave an impression; you just have to decide what it is.
Review by Theo Wildgoose