A number of critics have compared Edinburgh, Scotland’s Broken Records to Brooklyn’s The National, but upon hearing lead singer Jamie Sutherland’s vocals on “A Leaving Song,” the opening track of their sophomore effort, I’m reminded more of Brandon Flowers’ somewhat histrionic yelping. Or, on “You Know You’re Not Dead,” of Flowers attempting to channel Bruce Springsteen in “When You Were Young.” The same vocal acrobatics, which suited The Killers so well on their first album – probably because Flowers’ tongue seemed firmly dug into his cheek – skated into earnestness within subsequent efforts. (Remember Flowers singing, “Are we human? Or are we dancer?” to puzzled fans?) So, have no doubt, Let Me Come Home is an earnest effort. By the third track, “Dia ads Nomodoros,” however, you can account for why some critics might draw their comparisons to Berninger and the brothers Dessner, since the song does sound like an exaggerated version of The National’s more delicately orchestrated dirges.
Or, imagine another band also easily mistaken for Springsteen, The Hold Steady, but with less grit, performing on a sugar rush. And speaking of The Boss, if “A Darkness Rises Up” isn’t a stab at Bosshood, I don’t know what is. You could be forgiven for mistaking it for Bruce in a crowded bar. So it is that after listening to the tender ballad “Ailene,” I realized that the Broken Records really are in pursuit, not of their contemporaries, but of songwriting in that grand balladeer tradition that Springsteen nailed so effortlessly. Thing is, for the Broken Records, it comes a little harder.
It’s not that there aren’t some charming moments here. “I Used to Dream” proves restrained, tender, lovely even. “A Darkness Rises Up” (even the title sounds like a Springsteen mashup) is a suitably rousing effort amid slamming keys and committed orchestration.
It’s probably their lyrics where Broken Records could benefit from the most improvement: they elide your attention. There’s not a lot of grit here, see; not much sticks. They lack the idiosyncratic, often surreal phrasing of The National, the simple, devastating grandeur of Springsteen, or the crisp snark of The Killers at their best. “Modern Work Song” proves the best example. While Sutherland sings, literally, “Give me a job to keep / Give me a place to sleep,” Springsteen would have conjured a sharply-drawn, heart-rending story around a guy needing a job. So the Broken Records break the cardinal rule of storytelling: show don’t tell.
Let Me Come Home feels like an album begging to be liked. It’s an adorable puppy nipping at your heels that wants to be the sage old hound sitting dutifully by your side on the porch.Visit: Broken Records | 4AD
Purchase: Insound | eMusic