Review: Braid – Closer To Closed EP

Braid are one of those bands that everyone in this scene has heard of, even if they haven’t actually listened to them. Part of that beautiful second-wave emo movement in the 1990s, Braid and their contemporaries are simply must-listens if you’ve never cared to before. Part of what makes their music so timeless is that much like other bands in that scene, it’s lost to a kind of hazy nostalgia, their last release before now being in 2000. There’s been a recent resurgence of a bunch of these bands getting back together and releasing new material – The Get Up Kids, for example, released their first album in seven years earlier this year. It’s not like these bands have disappeared completely from the public eye – many of them have gone on to form excellent new bands; in Braid’s case, the entirety of the band except Chris Broach went on to create Hey Mercedes, who were similarly great, and Braid have reunited to play the odd show here and there. However, Closer To Closed is their first release in eleven years – can it live up to their previous legacy?

Closer To Closed is short and sweet in just four tracks. The possibility of a full-length has so far been not entirely ruled out, but isn’t necessarily on the cards for Braid. As a result, Closer To Closed is a tightly crafted EP. It’s excellently produced and every note rings clear. It’s impossible to avoid the influence from Hey Mercedes – the vocals are much cleaner than before, the guitar tone is less fuzzy (except in Do Over, which shows a vague attempt to hark back to Frame and Canvas with regards to that) and the band as a whole have certainly progressed as musicians – that much is obvious. It isn’t just a Hey Mercedes release packed with the Braid label – it sounds so familiar, yet different, mainly with the reintroduction of Chris Broach once again. It feels fantastic to hear him sing with Braid again, particularly in lead track The Right Time where he takes centre stage. Bob Nanna takes up the rest of the EP and Chris goes back to backing. The EP lacks a lot of the vocal dynamic that the previous albums had between the two vocalists – there’s much less of that call-and-response feel which made Braid so intriguing. Do Over is my favourite track from the release and is ultimately the most energetic track on the EP. The chorus riff is the closest to the old Braid feel found on the record and it sounds pretty awesome. It’s a catchy, bop-along song guaranteed to get you moving and will no doubt become a live favourite in time to come. The next track, You Are The Reason is a fairly boring affair. The piano layered through the background doesn’t do much to enhance the track at all and it would have been better off without it. This seems like a hangover from Hey Mercedes, as opposed to most of the rest of the EP and is certainly a throw-away track. The last track, Universe Or Worse does a lot to improve upon this, despite sprawling throughout almost six minutes. It makes a good closer, tailing off gently to round off the release. Like Do Over, it’s more faithful to their previous material, yet sounding fresh and new. It may not be for every listener though, featuring a fairly long instrumental section towards the end which although I find to be great chill out material, may be construed as dull by someone else.

Truthfully though, it’s just not quite the same. There’s none of the slightly off-time riffs that catch you unaware, I quite liked that old fuzzy guitar tone and it just sounds a lot tamer than Braid ever did. Not to say that it’s a bad EP – it’s certainly accomplished, but the tracks are instantly forgettable. It would make for good background music if it was just a bit longer, but as it stands, it passes through my iTunes playlist unnoticed most of the time. It’s not quite the glorious reunion I hoped for, but it could be far worse. If nothing else, Closer To Closed provides a platform that the band can build off of, but it may just be time for them to go and revisit their roots a little more.

3 out of 5 high fives