Album Of The Week / Brave Rival creates a thrilling life-changing debut

The best music is timeless, having a quality that will keep it fresh for generations, the performances sublime, and the songwriting both gold standard and universal. South coast quintet Brave Rival not only understand this but wholeheartedly embrace those qualities in a manner that borders on the indecent.

Brave Rival – Life’s Machine

Release Date: 6 May 2022

Words: Paul Monkhouse

This isn’t just a quick, drunken fumble but a full-blown and wholeheartedly passionate lovemaking to those tenants and Life’s Machine is the firstborn offspring of this meeting of mind, body, and soul.

Brave Rival - Life's Machine cover
Brave Rival – Life’s Machine

What makes this feat even more impressive is the relative brevity of time the band have been together, forming as they did a scant three years ago. With a global pandemic potentially derailing their plans, the focus was shifted to getting their debut written and recorded, and so that is what they did. The results, it must be said, are staggering.

Opening with the two most recent singles, Heart Attack and Guilty Love, the band set out their stall immediately with a combination of soulful blues-rock and sugar rush hooks that are not short of grit and swaggering confidence. Heart Attack electrifies with boundless energy and groove cut through with a silky-smooth bridge, and Guilty Love will have you singing and dancing no matter where you are.

Without You continues this mix, the irresistible pop nous tempered by a fire that rages, and Ed Clarke’s guitar solo fizzes with greatness. Brave Rival can do heavy, too, as aptly demonstrated by Run And Hide, the full pelt rocker powered by runaway locomotive momentum by Billy Dedman’s bass and the drums of Donna Peters.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest strengths of Brave Rival lies in the titanic twin vocal prowess of Chloe Josephine and Lindsey Bonnick, each bringing their own individual but complementary chops that bring together the power of Ann Wilson and the soul of Aretha Franklin.

It’s the former who really gets to showcase her ability in the astounding performance given during Come Down, its slow and sensual moves casting their spell. Backed by Bonnick and a choir, this is one of the highlights of the album and one that elicits nothing but a jaw-dropping admiration.

Brave Rival
The titanic twin vocal prowess of Brave Rival. Photo: Rob Blackham

In the one night stand themed What’s Your Name Again, it’s Bonnick’s turn in the spotlight, her wonderfully characterful delivery bringing a real heat to this tale that is part tongue in cheek and part smouldering sensuality. Again, the musical muscle brought by Clarke’s slide and Dedman and Peters gives just the right amount of nuanced power to the piece, never overwhelming the narrative with unnecessary bluster.

The volume is turned up further with the powerful, yet seemingly fragile, heart of Secrets, its ballsy and strident confidence a shell around a tender heart. Long Time Coming is a slow blues delight, Bonnick incandescent, backed by the choir again and the keys of guest Johnny Henderson.

Thin Ice features another great guitar solo and some outstanding vocal phrasing, but that’s just a warm-up for the closing hat trick of killer blows that provide the total K.O.

The spirit of BB King and The Supremes inhabit the vibe of the smoothly sophisticated Fool For You, its heady blend of ’60s soul and jazzy blues incredibly intoxicating, whilst Break Me is the torch song to end all torch songs, the huge emotions present building a powerful resolve from the fragility and hurt of heartbreak.

The album ends with the title track, Life’s Machine being Brave Rivals’ own Hotel California or Heroes in its scope and ambition, if not the former’s extended guitar workout. Its gentle, meandering motif adds layer upon layer, building a world so all-encompassing that all else fades away until the wave crashes, bringing such a crescendo that rattles the bones and makes the hairs on your neck and arms stand straight up.

As its glorious vocals fade, there’s nothing left but to exhale that long-held breath, sit quietly for a while as you’re lost in the moment and then hit the play button and listen to the whole thing again.

Every band dreams of writing and releasing the perfect debut. Very few achieve that, but Brave Rival have, and then some.

Their sophomore will be an absolute killer with this much talent and firepower. Brave Rival has only just started, but the first stage of their launch into the stratosphere is complete, their trajectory ever upwards and ever more sure.

Not just good, but life-changing.

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