Eight years is a long time. In that time, people can graduate from several schools and/or programs. Entire relationships can form and end during that period. Several American presidential administrations can (theoretically) go by. Sometimes bands will go the whole spell with only putting out one new EP. And other times, bands will go that whole time without putting out any new music, period. This is where Bracket comes in. Okay, so they released a series of b-sides and rarities compilations throughout 2013, but the band’s newest offering, Hold Your Applause, marks their first album of brand new material since 2006’s Requiem. And don’t worry, the next chapter of “Warren’s Song” made the cut.
Musically speaking, Hold Your Applause mostly picks up where Requiem left off, and depending on how you like your Bracket, this is either perfect news or disastrous news. A majority of the album pushes the band’s sound further into melodic power pop territory, with plenty of vocal harmonies to go around and an expansion of instrumentation that includes ukuleles and mandolins on several tracks (including lead single “She’s My Eraser”, “Mandy Lynn” and the sole stinker on the album “Daddy-in-Law”). That’s not to say that Bracket doesn’t also crank it up to 11 sometimes, with a handful of faster tracks (“The Opportunist”, “Wrong (What Am I Doing?)”) that keep the album rooted in punk. The contrast between the styles isn’t as jarring as it sounds (except for “Daddy-in-Law”), and it helps to re-establish Bracket’s laid-back punk identity after the long break for anyone who might have forgotten.
If Hold Your Applause has any major faults, it’s that it runs on for too long. There are sure to be people out there who appreciate getting as much new Bracket music as possible, but long play times and punk albums don’t normally have a history of mixing very well and Hold Your Applause is no exception. Sixteen songs in just under fifty minutes doesn’t necessarily break the album, but even if three or four songs had been saved for a companion EP (or if “Daddy-in-Law” had been left on the cutting room floor… sorry guys, I just really don’t like that song) it would make it a much more compact listen.
All-in-all, Hold Your Applause is a welcome return for Bracket to the recorded world. Between its Wilson-esque harmonies and the new instruments added to the mix, the band progresses their mellow-punk sound without disregarding everything that’s come before. In other words, it’s the next logical step for them. Word has it that they’re already in the beginning stages of recording a new album [possibly about food], but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Hold Your Applause is merely a warmup for Bracket to get back into the swing of things in the studio. Despite its title, this album deserves at least the beginning rounds of a slow clap.
4 / 5
RIYL: Lagwagon, Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, The Gamits