There’s no BS about synth-heavy “anti-pop” band Brother Sister. On their freshly released SSDD EP, there are no over-ambitious concepts; the trio of siblings deliver some no-frills hooks and low-risk high-reward fun - and that’s good enough to outweigh any gripes with what is essentially a low-stakes record.
The two essential components of the SSDD melting pot are new wave and garage rock, and Brother Sister’s minimalist approach to songwriting means they manage to extract the best elements out of each. Mix some Human League-esque harmonies and lyrical trade-offs with a four-to-the-floor foundation and punk riffs - fitting considering Taz Thomson’s roots in bands like Club Stupid - and you have a solid if predictable blueprint. Yet to boil it down in such simple comparisons leaves out a lot of nuances; Dave Thomson’s “clenched teeth” vocal style hints at smouldering anger underneath the surface of the lyrics, and drum machine fills kick songs like Breakdown into fifth gear, adding a well-needed punch to the typically bouncy tunes.
What’s less varied are the topics of discussion here; the EP is unified as a whole by a critique on “the grind” and the repetitive nature of modern life. Yet the lyrics can feel somewhat insular, reflective of repetition instead of rebellious.
The band described the titular track as moving on from its own philosophy - leaving the same shit behind, looking forward to a different day, but indulging in that extra glass of whiskey all the same. So when a song like Get It gripes about people who don’t get it, it can blur the line between self-effacing and self-indulgent. Brother Sister seem familiar with this darkly optimistic road - having explored it on their Push My Buttons EP from 2016 - so it’s a shame that not every track ties into the dual meaning of SSDD.
Having seen the band at their EP release gig down at the Thirsty Dog, it’s interesting to note that their live performances use more organic instrumentation than their studio recordings; the garage rock sound comes into play more, and Ben Thomson packs a mean punch with a full drum kit. What it also emphasised was the human element behind the synthetic sound; Brother Sister’s family camaraderie is just as effective on stage as it is on CD, and they aren’t afraid to crack jokes about actually being able to pay their rent.
On a longer or more ambitious record, these spots of vulnerability could elevate their craft. For now, I’m grateful that SSDD establishes a baseline that, while enjoyable, has room for improvement, because Brother Sister deserves the opportunity to do so.
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Released: 07 Jun 2019