For some reason – please, don’t question my reasoning – I had assumed this’d be a grizzled, tough-going affair, full of tales of heartache set to battered acoustic guitars and a voice of coarsest gravel, but it’s really anything but at times (although, granted, it has its Tom Waits moments). More often than not, Incredible Love reveals itself to be a great country-rock album of an unusually sunny disposition.
Okay, time for answers: Chris Brokaw did time in both Codeine and Come – but try telling me that either act released records of unbridled joviality and I’ll slap your face silly – so it seemed natural that this solo album (his third by my counting, after Red Cities and Wandering As Water, but I could be incorrect, such is my non-existent knowledge of Brokaw’s recent career) would be of a particularly morose mindset. Sometimes it is – the lyrics to ‘The Information Age’ paint an ugly picture of technological progression and its impact on old ways and, more subtlety, on how the passing of time renders us all useless eventually, even if the music itself is never glum – but songs like the cover of Suicide’s ‘I Remember’ and ‘Move’ are defiantly upbeat affairs, fully-amplified and astutely rocking (albeit in a countrified manner).
Although the music often seems simplistic, there are layers to its apparent one-dimensional appearance (indeed, on a first listen certain songs sound woefully contrived, an opinion that soon fades): ‘X’s For Eyes’ employs violin and cello well, and even when Brokaw alone is charged with mustering the music about his consistently strong vocals, the effect is akin to a full band in flight. (When used, Brokaw’s band for this record includes Jeff Goddard of Karate and Matt Kadane of The New Year.) His lyrics, too, warrant careful inspection – whenever the music takes a turn for the dramatic, chances are that they will too and a glance through the lyric book reveals numerous bottomless rabbit holes into which the wandering listener could easily fall, never to find a conclusion to their quest for answers.
Repeated listens suck you in with ease, making Incredible Love an unexpected early highlight of 2006’s singer-songwriter releases. Its underside is as soft and malleable as its back is hunched and hardened, but the heart within beats pure and true.
7Mike Diver's Score