We know Brother O’ Brother very well around here, but in case you don’t: Brother O’ Brother is a band from Indiana composed of Chris Banta (vocals, guitar) and Warner Swopes (drums). On May 22 of this year, we were blessed by the music gods with a full album from the duo, Neon Native, with twelve balls-to-the-walls tracks.
Neon Native launches with “R.O.S.E.”. This is a big song, with big parts, sometimes dipping into “slow burn” territory with a chugging guitar line backing the vocals during its verses. It kicks into gear in true Brother O’ Brother fashion around the 3-minute mark, where great rock guitar disintegrates into a wall of tremolo and cymbal crashes.
Only on track two, my heart’s already beating at three-cups-of-coffee pace. “16 Flowers” carries the energy forward with steady backbone of guitar and drum. The song goes from being a fast-tempo’d rocker to . It kicks your ass and proceeds right into “Sunshine” with no second thought. “Sunshine” is a fuzzy track that’s solid, although with a little less energetic flair than the prior two.
Track after track of punch-to-the-face, energetic rock follows, until we land on “Fever”. “Fever” treads on alternative rock territory, with its catchy guitar riff and tone calling to mind, if only for a second, the Smashing Pumpkins. It starts low. Deep, fuzzy guitar with light cymbal back Banta’s restrained (for him) vocals. Right when you think Brother O’ Brother is going to explode, they show restraint and continue onto the next verse. And then, BAM! There it is. A touch of unpredictability is the cherry on top of a hellova track.
I was surprised to hear acoustic guitar kick off “White Noise”. This track definitely falls a bit outside of their signature sound, but it’s the most logical translation of acoustic guitar into the Brother O’ Brother vernacular. All together, it’s a more stripped down sound than I’m used to hearing from them, and it’s a little jarring to transition from a raw Brother’ O’ Brother sound to a stripped down (albeit energetic) acoustic song–and then back. All of this is not to say the song itself is bad, I simply question the placement.
“Widow Maker” is one hell of a closing track. It’s solid and steady with the sweet sound of cymbals crashing over me like waves. In this track, Banta’s vocals are equal parts singsong and raw, differentiating between parts of the song. Without a doubt, “Widow Maker” is the exclamation point at the end of an incredible album shaking with electricity.
Guys, Neon Native is big. It fires on all garage-rock cylinders with every song. Neon Native drips power rock goodness and is closer than ever to replicating the raw and unbridled energy of the Brother O’ Brother live show. Put on a helmet and check out the biggest sounds out of Indiana for yourselves.
Listen to the album in its entirety below: