Album review: Lonely The Brave – The Hope List
Much has changed in the world of Lonely The Brave since releasing their ambitious second album Things Will Matter in 2016. Internally, the departure of co-founding vocalist Dave Jakes in 2018 sent shockwaves through the camp. Their erstwhile frontman’s impressionistic lyrics and Peter Gabriel-alike voice seemed an inseparable element of the Cambridge quartet’s appeal: a voice like a mighty oak which stood firm within the band’s wind-strewn post-rock vistas, yet belied a chronically shy performer. Outside, global pressures that have weighed on us all – Brexit, environmental crisis, a reality TV hog in the White House – seemed to hint at a fracturing world. According to guitarist Mark Trotter, there was never a question of Lonely The Brave soldiering on. Even so, less turbulent events have blown many bands before them off course, never to return.
As the band emerges from cover with a new album – their first with vocalist Jack Bennett – The Hope List comes loaded with expectation. Opener Bound courses with urgency as they push towards an unfolding horizon of glacial synths. Drummer Mo Edgeley and bassist Andrew Bushen propel the track like a trusty engine, yet the anticipation felt by all is clear as Mo’s snare crackles and leaps into a firework display chorus. The momentum carries forward into Distant Lights, where echoing, arpeggiated guitars set sights on the stars.
Crucially, Jack’s airy voice suits the interplay between building rhythms and spectral guitars clashing overhead. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Jack’s career as one-man band Grumble Bee, he is able to lend himself easily to any situation. On Keeper, his straining delivery harnesses the updraft of Mark Trotter and Ross Smithwick’s guitars to achieve lift-off, while Your Heavy Heart sees him holding ground as waves of tumultuous guitar and drums rise and crash around him. And as the album’s de facto producer, with instrumentals recorded at the singer’s West Yorkshire home studio, his expansive mix is sympathetic to a band whose past triumphs evoked a feeling of charting the unknown.
If the energised performances speak to Lonely The Brave’s renewed confidence, lyrically The Hope List is overcast with doubt and uncertainty. ‘Faulty circuits bind, caged eyes, caged mind,’ is the bleak forecast espoused over an earth-churning bass line on Bright Eyes. Even soaring tunes are frequently undercut by questions. ‘How can you call it a win, when we’re bound to love and lose again?’ Jack howls on Bound, with no answer forthcoming. The title track itself gazes inwards as Jack queries the sense in filing pain away into songs. ‘It’s such a game,’ the singer admits, ‘I lose again, but now and then I listen.’ Meanwhile, a Rhodes piano picks out a simplistic melody like a broken nursery rhyme. At the core lies internal desperation, rather than optimism.
The moments where The Hope List truly takes flight are when doubt is overcome and a new dawn beckons. ‘Man, I almost died,’ Jack croons, in wonder or disbelief, at the outset of Open Door, which cranks gears into a Mogwai-esque crescendo of guitars and bass at the prospect of taking the wheel, consequences be damned. Finding solace in the fight, The Hope List is a resounding show of strength from Lonely The Brave – one which points towards a future rich with possibility.
For fans of: Funeral For A Friend, Biffy Clyro, Idlewild
The Hope List is out on January 22 via Easy Life
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