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Artist: The Brothers Martin
Label; Tooth & Nail
Length: 10 tracks / 34:54 minutes
Released 2007

"Communication," the lead-off track for The Brothers Martin, is everything that is good about rock and roll wrapped up in two and a half sweet candy minutes.  The sheer power of rock, the kind that raises the hair on your arms and leaves you open-mouthed and wide- eyed.  Stunned.  Blown away.

Jason & Ronnie Martin, respectively of Starflyer 59 and Joy Electric, have been making fantastic pop/rock music for the past twelve years for Tooth & Nail Records.  After years of fans requesting (read: begging) for a joint project from the brothers, it's here.  The Brothers Martin.  And as I've said, that lead-off track is awesome. One of the greatest songs ever penned by a Martin brother.  Lest you think I'm damning it with faint praise, I'm going to over-hype it like ten Superbowls:  it's The Brothers Martin's "Blue Monday" or "Enjoy The Silence."

Therein lies the rub:  "Communication" is the only track on the album that is officially co-written by both Jason and Ronnie.  It is a brilliant song, yet also an example of how good this album could have been with more co-writing.  What we have here is ten songs.  One co- written.  Five from Ronnie, four from Jason.  Ronnie (JE), as can be expected, handles the synthesizer and keyboard duties, as well as vocals on his songs.  Jason (SF59) handles guitars, drums and bass, and vocals on his songs.  And while the results are still very
good, the album is too much of a mixed bag to qualify as the"classic" it could have been.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for TBM's mixed results is the simple fact that Jason's four contributions are not very far removed from Starflyer 59.  Both brothers are clearly influenced heavily by the '80's new wave (New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths) on both TBM and in their own work, sure.  Jason's tracks sound suspiciously like
SF59 tracks with a couple JE style synth lines.  Ronnie does weave his trademark synths into Jason's rock expertly - nothing on the album sounds merely "added on" -  it's just that SF59 has used lots of strings and synth in the past.    Furthermore, I think I've pinpointed one of my quibbles with recent SF59 via TBM:  I'm tired of Jason's low, breathy vocals.  Are his vocals tired?  Ear of the beholder, perhaps.

And it is to that end that Ronnie's tracks are just much brighter, more vibrant, sharp.  Obviously Ronnie's songs benefit from using live drums, bass and guitars as opposed to the trademark JE "analog synthesizer ONLY" sound.  Yet, it is more than the novelty of Ronnie Martin doing "normal" music (as if "normal" could be quantified). Ronnie's tracks have alternately a dark intensity or strange, whimsical quirkiness; either of which give his contributions brilliant life.  Vocally, Ronnie simply outperforms his brother. Despite perhaps having the more unusual voice (effeminate, falsetto with a faux-British accent), Ronnie's vocals fit TBM like the pants of a man with five legs:  like a glove. His vocal performances on
"Communication" and "The Behavior Explains" belong to the sound that is The Brothers Martin.  It is worth mentioning that there is not one vocal harmony between Jason and Ronnie; it is either one or the other brother singing.

Of course, as a fan, I am analyzing perhaps much deeper than the average listener.  It would be a disservice to compartmentalize The Brothers Martin into "Jason's okay, Ronnie's brilliant."  The album  is a cohesive whole, with Ronnie's synth and Jason's guitars linking every song together regardless of disparity.  The drums (courtesy of Project 86's Alex Albert) shine, hearkening back to the synth drums so favored in the 1980's but so much louder and bigger.  The beat is eminently danceable... with the current trends heading towards the "dance-rock" sound, TBM would feel right at home alongside albums from artists such as Panic! At The Disco or The Killers.  For goodness sake, Jason and Ronnie have crafted a record that is almost trendy  Through no fault of their own, of course.

There is an awful lot to like about The Brothers Martin and their quality new-wave rock that does not merely imitate, but pays loving homage to new wave   without sacrificing the Martin's individual identities as songwriters.  But when you kick off a disc with a track as strong as "Communication," you set the bar very, very high.  In that respect "Communication" is double-edged:  a brilliant track, and an example of What Might Have Been had The Brothers Martin co-written the majority of the album instead of one song.  It is nonetheless wonderful to at last have the fabled joint Martin project, and who knows?  Maybe it's the non-fanboys that will love TBM the most, while all of us old-school Tooth & Nail kids hold our copies of "The Fashion Focus" and "Robot Rock" tightly to our chests, grumbling about "them kids."

Ahem.  The Brothers Martin, individually or together, are what is right with music today.  Strongly recommended to, you know, music fans.  All of them.

Ryan Ro was about five when Depeche Mode and New Order were in their prime.  Speaking of Prime, Transformers:  The Movie was in the theatres way back in 1986.  When RyRo was five. Optimus Prime DIES in that movie, you know.  DIES.  It didn't warp his fragile little mind, however.  You heartless...



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