Braver Than Fiction can take their comparisons with the mighty Fleetwood Mac as more than just a flattering musical connection as the Sheffield outfit have a bumpy road behind them involving line up swaps and health problems. The five piece describe themselves as “dark loungey swagger” on their Facebook page and combine diverse backgrounds and musical styles into a cracking live act which has been compared to the likes of Janis Joplin, Tom Waits and the aforementioned Mac.
Their first release was the haunting “Your Little Fantasy” which really cemented the Fleetwood Mac comparisons, sounding like a lost jewel from the “Rumours” era, imprinted with twisted love and regret. 2014 saw the band release their debut EP, a live set showcasing the band’s appeal but it’s taken until now for a follow up as lead singer Mel Lampro has battled cancer and has now rounded up her boys Jason, Adam, Paul and Martin into the recording studio for “The Fool”, a brand new four track EP.
Lead track “There’s a Time For Silence” starts with distorted guitars, edgy drums and an insistent driving bassline which is dark and glamorous. Lampro’s vocals are like a honey coated call to arms, rasping and bluesy but soaring emotionally, especially over the keyboard trills in the midst of the song. The lyrics seem to fit perfectly as Lampro defiantly croons, “oh and here I stand, I’m braver than fiction” and it’s hard to disagree with her. A middle eight sees the song stripped back before building back up again with synthy stabs and a howling guitar solo.
“The Hangman’s Waltz” begins with a fairground merry-go-round refrain before segueing into a gothic organ, cackling and a three step which seems to irresistibly draw the listener into movement. The topic of the song is obviously dark and macabre yet also joyously and mischievously entertaining. It’s perfectly timed for Halloween and deliciously catchy, particularly Lampro’s ability to spin a narrative across the three minutes which is engaging and twisted in the best folk traditions.
“Free Ride” picks up where Hangman left off, with a Phantom of the Opera-esque organ intro before heading back into the more indie pop territory of the band’s usual material. This being Braver Than Fiction though, it’s still haunting and gets under your skin whilst pleasing the ear, with a particularly striking guitar riff sounding like a dark version of “A Spaceman Came Travelling” and Lampro’s vocals lamenting a lover perhaps beyond reasoning. The song ends with a reverse “Wannabe” as we hear echo-y footsteps and a slamming door.
Final track “Love’s Coming in” is the one which stood out the most to me during their recent live sets as being utterly different from the rest of the band’s material and yet 100% definitively a Braver Than Fiction song. It’s hard to listen to the song without picturing faded photographs of a perfect summer, long gone but fondly remembered and that feeling is evoked across the sweet honky tonk piano, guitars and more gentle percussion and more of that sad, sweet honey from Lampro. She wistfully sings of the ruins of a relationship like a dilapidated house and however melancholy the lyrics are, the song is pure, folk pop of the highest calibre. It’s summery, but late summer when it’s almost too late to do all the things you wanted to do, which is a recurring theme across the band’s output – that of nostalgia, reflection and regret.
The Fool EP is available from here on Friday 28th October.