Album Review: the breakUps – Illness at Ease

by Tony Butterworth on September 21, 2009

Illness at EaseOne of the advantages of being a famous album reviewer for the world renowned Spinning Platters is that I get people sending me music for review.  I knew eventually all my laziness work would pay off.  Today it’s Illness at Ease from the dubiously grammared, unsigned band the breakUps.  Most review requests seem generic but this one had a directness and honesty that caused me to give the samples a listen and led me to this full album review.

Firstly a comment on reviewing.  I’ve started to find that reviewing albums is affecting my enjoyment, most recent albums I’ve reviewed I have not been overly positive and yet later listens reveal that I enjoyed them a lot and I’ve felt like I should correct my reviews.  This was particularly true of Brendan Benson’s recent album; I was quite critical but would now probably rank this as my favorite of the year so far.  To that end I’ve decided to simply listen to the album before reviewing it to decide if I like it or not before getting into the details.

Illness at Ease immediately passes my song-length test, 14 tracks ranging from 2 to 4 minutes with most hitting around 3 minutes.  The perfect setup for my listening pleasure.

Album opener “Everybody’s Girl” is a very appealing starting point, crunchy guitars are joined by, dare I say, some Stranglers style organ.  Vocally it reminds me of early Jet.  This is followed by  “Morningside Lane,” a very similar sounding song.  It’s actually hard to differentiate the two, both have infectious guitar and organ grooves with energetic vocals.

“Good to Lie” is next, the longest song on the album, this one follows the same developing formula,  “Baby Sez” is more of the same, though the tempo breaks a little bit hear and there.  The singer, by this point, is really reminding me of a young Mick Jagger or even David Johannsen.  The next track, “Cry in the Night,” has more of a punky, early Dolls feel to it.

“Feel Alright” keeps the formula moving along, the vocals now moving more into Paul Kossof territory.  At this point you might think I’m complaining about the style not changing but I’m not, it’s a good sound, the songs are short and appealing and it’s good to know what you’re going to get.  “Knockin’ at Your Door” adds a faster tempo and some seriously buzzy guitar to the mix.  While fitting the general mode, there is something subtly different about this tune.

“Can’t Find my Way” continues the punky Dolls-like feel of some earlier tracks.  It’s simple but effective songwriting.   “Alice Brown’s Blues” continues the theme. “Tossin’ Turning” provides a slight change of pace, more of a Stax soul music feel to this one.  “Black by Six” is driven by a bass line (as oppose to the crunchy guitars of most of the tracks), once again, when mixed with the organ, this brings to mind The Stranglers.

“Little Sallie Nightfall,” “Discourse with Jaxon,” and “In and Out” finish up the album with more the energetic sound you’ve become used to at this point.

Overall it’s a good album, full of energy and fun to listen to.  I suspect they are great live.  My concern is that there is little to grab onto: no hooks, musical or vocally, that will allow them to break through to the next level.  The production on the album is, at times, kind of mushy, giving it an almost live feel. Give it a try on their MySpace site and let me know what you think.

Find the breakUps at MySpace

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John September 23, 2009 at 10:30 am

I saw these guys at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington DC. They were great. They opened up for the Black Hollies. I thought that their sound was amazing. If you are of a fan early Kinks, the Who or New York Dolls, then this band is definitely for you.

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