[sic] Magazine

The Strange Boys – Be Brave

In their previous incarnation, The Strange Boys took the same influences as label-mates Black Lips . Their shambling rhythm and blues wasn’t afraid to rock, plunder psychedelia or surf-rock, nor were they ill-at-ease in hazy garage. Ryan Sambol ‘s otherworldly vocal matched his brother’s relaxed bounce round for round.

On Be Brave, these Austin boys have welcomed new blood. Darker My Love ‘s Tim Presley joins the ranks, as does the now defunct Mika Miko ‘s Jenna Thornhill and Seth Densham . It’s peculiar then that rather have become more ragged and perhaps psychedelic as one might have expected, Be Brave focuses on their full-length debut’s quieter and more subdued moments whilst retaining their nostalgic crackle and fizz all the while.

Now, Sambol croaks and mews where once he arguably sang. Their rhythms are even more horizontal nearly disappearing into a soothing diaphanousness of their own creation. With the ramshackle, glam exception of “Da Da”, which aligns itself with The Smith Westerns , the Be Brave canon is closer to the most barely-there Rolling Stones moments and Bob Dylan ‘s ballads (see the toe-tapping harmonica parps of “I See”) than it is to their previous R&B take on garage-rock.

There is still room however for a light psych flourish in the guitar-worked climax of “A Walk On The Beach”, a little rootsy Americana à la Delta Spirit on the blustery title track and single. “Between Us” is altogether more plodding as is “Dare I Say”, whereas the well-worn piano of “The Unsent Letter” adds dusty authenticity to Sambol’s nasal bleat. Be Brave closes with “You Can’t Only Love When You Want”, a desert-blues tear-jerker than in name suggests further affiliation with Mick Jagger ‘s own strange boys.

Though Rough Trade are doing the distribution, The Strange Boys remain an In The Red band at heart. In a truly brave move, their catchy refrains and fun-time rock ‘n’ roll have been turned down in favour of Sambol’s off-the-wall harmonies, but they remain contenders. With further consistency, Black Lips may need to watch out yet.

Be Brave is out now on Rough Trade / In The Red.