BRASS Continue to Shine on 'Look on the Bright Side'

BY Yasmine ShemeshPublished Oct 20, 2022

"Winning Hand" — the first single off Look on the Bright Side, the new EP from Vancouver hardcore punks BRASS — is the perfect introduction to the band's latest chapter. Opening with a churning bassline before breaking into a blazing guitar solo that, with its gritty slides and wild flourish, feels like a live take, the song takes an allegorical jab at white privilege: "When I wear it, nothing scares me much, I wouldn't dare just, go on and give it up." 
"Winning Hand" contains a sharpness that has become BRASS' signature, sneering through blistering songs across their previous two studio albums, 2015's No Soap Radio and 2018's For Everyone. The band's incisive lyrics carry a searing depth, offering frank social observations or mining anxiousness with raw relatability and almost always laced with acidic humour. Take "Occasional Gardener" — an outtake from For Everyone released in 2019, the track begins with lead singer Devon Motz describing planting a seed, a metaphorical sense of hope, perhaps. After watching it grow for a while, it simply stops and apathy takes over; unapologetically revelling in the rot is all that's left to do. "Here I am / I'm falling apart / And it's how I want to be right now / Here I am / stumbling through the dark / But it's where I want to be right now." The track's title is a reference to the scant times where potential hope is nurtured and blooms. 
Look on the Bright Side doubles down on the band's trajectory as BRASS delivers their most fully realized work yet. The addition of new members Zach Mouallem on guitar and Kennedy Pawluk on bass (two-thirds of Edmonton psych-rockers Dead Fibres), alongside guitarist Tristan Milne, drummer Rory Troughton, and Motz, take BRASS from a trio to a five piece. Not only do the extra bodies make the music harder, louder, and tighter, but they help highlight the band's instrumental dexterity and diverse musical palette. BRASS has never shied from playing with their sound — the first track on For Everyone, "Coral," is an electric, piano-driven instrumental — but on Look on the Bright Side, the band edges their classic rowdy levity with a moodiness as they wrestle with finding clarity in the bleak state of the world. 
On album opener "Bad Neighbours," BRASS lambasts the tumultuous nature of life in the ever-divided U.S. over Troughton's relentless pummels: "You got more guns than we got people, baaad neighbours!" The song's tempo revs up midway, Milne and Mouallem duelling, their instruments swirling faster and faster like a storm, as Motz howls, "Let it rain, let the sky turn grey, let it rain." The energy floods seamlessly into "Who's Counting," with rumbling drums and cutting guitar that squeals in melody. The lyrics denote a scorching satire of privilege — "I've been personally inconvenienced" — as the music descends into instrumental chaos, like a reflection of the overall mess the world has been wading through the last few years. "It's been," Motz snarls, breathlessly, "it's been really tough." 
Jesse Gander's production allows the magic that powers that sonic chaos — the mastery of the band's players, the emotional range of Motz's voice — to shine, and highlights audible sonic references like Alexisonfire, IDLES, and Black Flag. Gander produced both No Soap Radio and For Everyone, and it's clear he has an understanding of BRASS and the quality and intention of their work. One of the best examples of this can be heard on "Milestone," an emo highlight driven by a melancholic riff that builds into thrash before it falls back down and changes course into gloomy notes, mirroring an ebb and flow of despair and rage. The anguish in Motz's voice is poignant as he moves between singing and screaming, imploring if anybody else feels bad and longing for something real, a way to forget the truth.  
It's not surprising how well-crafted Look on the Bright Side is, especially considering the breadth of creative talent that exists within BRASS. Milne, for example, writes satirical historical fiction and has another musical project Buck Nothin, while Motz also sings lead for FEARBIRDS. Plus, with Gander's production and Look on the Bright Side being BRASS' first release on Vancouver label Early Onset Records, the album stands as a great representation, and a real celebration, of the local DIY scene the band is so deeply embedded in. 
Look on the Bright Side closes with the firmly tongue-in-cheek "Parkour Saved My Life," as full-throttle drums, guitar, and shout-a-longs make it impossible not to move. As BRASS trudges through the swamps of privilege, toxic masculinity, and the impending doom of humanity, they charge forward wielding humour as a tool — for hope, for confronting the status quo — in an attempt to reach another side, the proverbial bright side. It makes for an urgent, challenging, and compelling experience — qualities that have established BRASS as one of the most consistent bands in the city and, undeniably, one of the most exciting punk bands to watch out for in the country.
(Early Onset )

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