Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5, The Age of Octeen, Movie Music Vol.1, Movie Music Vol. 2 (Reissues)
The birth of screamo can be traced back to very few bands, but Braid was at the forefront. Although Braid was only around in the ’90s for six years, they put together a lot of music in that short amount of time. Polyvinyl Records is re-releasing Braid’s first two albums and two more albums, Movie Magic Vol. 1 and Movie Magic Vol. 2, that incorporate everything else that they threw on compilations and 7″. Despite the fact that all of these are being released on vinyl with limited printings in various colors, there are only two that are really worth listening to. And it’s not the two that you would expect.
Their debut Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5 is a chaotic mess. From “Capricorn,” where the music sounds like it’s trying to run away from the lyrics to the call-and-answer screaming of “New Dollar Building,” it’s obvious that Braid was going for broke. The album has 26 tracks (each one starting with a different letter in the alphabet) with the majority of them at or under three minutes long. While there are some gems, like the strangely catchy “Lining Lake Michigan” and “Yawn London,” there are some others that wouldn’t even be good enough for a B-side compilation, like the minute-long “Wax Wings” and “X Marks the Hope Box.” Throughout the entire album, it sounds like the songs were just thrown together, as the album has no cohesiveness whatsoever.
On The Age of Octeen, Braid sounds like a combination of Mudhoney and Pavement. They know when to tone it down, like on the mid-tempo “Divers,” but they also can throw a curveball, especially on “Nineteen 75,” when the pace abruptly slows down only to go back to the quicker scream/singing that the band is known for. While this album is more cohesive than their debut, it is still dirty screaming indie-garage rock that sounds like each song was recorded in one take.
The other two albums, really aren’t “albums” at all, but they are without a doubt the best that Braid has to offer. Movie Music Vol. 1 compiles all of the band’s 7″ and split 7″ material, while Movie Music Vol. 2 takes all of their covers and compilation songs and adds five previously unreleased tracks to the mix. Oddly enough, both of these sound more put-together than their first two albums. “Motion Light” is a fantastic brooding track that is followed up by the quiet-loud-quiet “Perfect Pitch.” Those two tracks could easily be where the group Brand New came up with their sound. Brand New just perfected it. Tracks like “(Strawberry Ann) Switzerland” and “What a Wonderful Puddle” are much more focused and are by far the best of Braid on any of these four releases.
Braid helped lay the groundwork for screamo, or emo-core as it has also been called. Bands like Underoath, Taking Back Sunday, and Hawthorne Heights owe a huge debt to Braid. While these releases are not classics in how good they are, they are classics in how they paved the way for a slew of mediocre bleeding heart-on-sleeve groups. If you are looking for the beginnings of the genre, then you must hear all four. If you are looking to cherry-pick the best of the band, then pick up the two compiled albums.
Polyvinyl Records: www.polyvinylrecords.com