The dark, sweet piano march that opens the Brakes' Tale of Two Cities, a collection of precisely choreographed live recordings, snakes into trumpet blats and other sadistic pleasures: "Bite my lip and drain this blood into the ground," croons Zach Djanikian. But that's as rough as these kids from Philly get. Their navigation of '70s AOR and guitar jamming may be their way of liberating Wilcoland from experimental pretensions, but it's also as hooky and swift as a schooner captained by Matthew Sweet. They pay no mind to political winds — "I'm not afraid of the state of the union," sings a blissful Djanikian — but that doesn't make them yacht rockers. A course this smooth and straight raises the question of whether they're having any fun at all; when they cut loose with the guitars you know the answer.
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