The Brew might not be a familiar name to listeners in North America, but in the UK (their home country) as well as the rest of Europe it’s obviously a different story, as in June the band is playing a music festival in Germany headlined by Joe Bonamassa (if you don’t know who Bonamassa is, you’ve got some catching up to do). Only a few months into 2014, their latest album Control is so unbelievably strong that it could be legitimately considered in the running as one of the top rock albums of the year.
The Brew is a power trio composed of lead vocalist/guitarist Jason Barwick, bassist/vocalist Tim Smith and drummer Kurt Smith. The sound of the band is neo-classic rock–think early Led Zeppelin, Cream, Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac…you get the idea. The ten songs on the album are titled Repeat, Eject, Mute, Pause, Shuffle, Fast Forward, Skip, Stop, Play and Rewind. At first glance at the track listing, it seems like a cute gimmick until you realize the songs themselves actually incorporate each title into the lyrics.
The music itself is where Control really shines. Each song on the album is instantly likeable from the first listen; no break-in period required. With the power trio format there’s no room for slacker musicianship, and you’ll find none here. Barwick’s lead vocals are as strong as his power chording and stinging solos. Control was recorded live in the studio, which exposes the limitations of a one-guitar band. With no overdubs, while the guitarist is soloing the missing rhythm guitar unavoidably creates a vacuum in the sound. Bass player Tim Smith’s fluid bass lines and drummer Kurt Smith’s furious cymbal splashes do an admirable job of filling that void.
Make no mistake—this band is not three hippie/bluesmen wannabe’s tapping into the retro scene to sell records. Sure, The Brew take their inspiration from those who came before them, but they put their own twist and spin on that to come up with something that sounds—paradoxically–old, yet very new and refreshing.