Lonely The Brave – The Hope List
They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m not sure why that is; if anything it’s the little things that often spiral out of our control and end up being our undoing. This seems especially true when it comes to being in a band. Over the decades even just the slightest tip of the scales has been enough for bands to call it a day. Minor disagreements snowballing into something greater, growing constraints on time or money, subtle shifts in priorities and other such bumps in the road have all been enough to put great bands out of commission. On flip side of that, sometimes it feels like the stars have to align for a band to rise from the ashes and make a worthwhile comeback. Countless acts have made a return to the spotlight only to find that the spark simply isn’t there any longer.
For their third album, Lonely The Brave had all the odds stacked against them. Having parted ways with frontman David Jakes, who left to attend to his mental health in 2018, their future was uncertain to say the least. Moving forward with a new vocalist – as well as choosing to step back and take their time with it, thus losing the momentum they had – is something that probably would have spelled the end for most bands. Clearly Lonely The Brave are not like most bands then, as with The Hope List they have stuck the landing about as well as they possibly could. New singer Jack Bennett feels right at home, instrumentally the band feels revitalised with a fresh lease of life, and the hooks are more compelling than ever.
Hitting play I’m struck by how the sharp riffs and bombastic drums that were such a defining part of tracks like ‘Backroads’ and ‘Trick of the Light’ are noticeably absent on this release. In many ways this is a more mature and nuanced record, less concerned with central spectacle and more focused on the finer details in the background. All that builds up to form their most expansive body of work to date, and one that rewards repeat listens. Every track is fleshed out in a way that adds so much colour and texture, and makes it feel greater than the sum of its parts. All this rounding off of sharp edges doesn’t mean the band have lost their bite however. This record still packs a punch, and Bennett’s earnest vocals are swimming with purpose, but rather than songs offering just a simple one-two punch of guitar and drums, the whole track seems to surge forward as though there’s electricity in the air. The stunning slow-burning closer ‘The Harrow’ for instance really feels like it earns its fervent finale as the rising tension finally bubbles over.
The one way which this album stumbles slightly is in its lyricism. The lyrics are often too cryptic to discern much of the true meaning and inspiration behind them, while also being too disjointed, and occasionally too abstract, for you to really attach your own meaning to them either. Despite this the album is packed full of engaging and memorable hooks. Where words may falter, the abundance of earworm melodies ensures that this record never strays far from your thoughts. Fact of the matter is that the melodies and musicality are so strong that he could be singing about shoelaces and I’d still be along for the ride. Standout tracks like ‘Bright Eyes’, ‘Keeper’ and album highlight ‘Chasing Knives’ deal in that special breed of anthemic chorus that you will probably never sing the right lyrics to, but you can’t help but belt out with your best guess every time regardless.
This feels like a fitting first album review for 2021. At a time when the music industry is suffering through unprecedented hardship and uncertainty, when countless acts both up-and-coming and established are no doubt wondering how they can carry on, Lonely The Brave have delivered a masterclass on how to bounce back from adversity. The mature and assured alt rock of The Hope List is just the pleasant surprise I needed. Their best work yet, and a brilliant way to start the year.