Artist: Bravo Max
Album: Bullfighter Blues
Label: St. Cait Records
Release Date: 11/04/2016
Almost everything about Bravo Max is different on Bullfighter Blues, the follow-up to 2011’s debut LP Dog’s Light. Trimmed down to a trio from a six-piece lineup, the Dallas, TX band—comprising all new members, except leader and bassist Johnny Beauford—could have simply continued down the same narrow, dusty old road of Americana they’d been driving on. It seems they’d grown tired of the scenery.
Although remnants of their early roots-oriented sound remain, Bravo Max made a left turn sometime back and found themselves embracing fleshed-out, charismatic rock ‘n’ roll and vivid, full-on psychedelia with equal ardor. The result is in an engaging, colorfully diverse and sonically dynamic record seemingly guided by its own personal spirit animal, namely The Soundtrack of Our Lives, part of Sweden’s garage-rock revival of the late ’90s and early 2000s. At the very least, they appear to be two peas in a pod, although a host of other influences—vintage or otherwise—carry equal weight with the new and improved Bravo Max.
While the title track takes a floating magic-carpet ride through the desert atmospherics of Howe Gelb and Giant Sand, “Raise a Toast,” with its beaming horns, is a bold, brilliant splash of color, and the expansive “Salt Stones” takes flight into a vast, twinkling sky of panoramic guitars. Biting hooks and exuberant energy recommend “Bee & The Boxer,” whereas the brooding, slow-burning “Lay Low” has an air of mystery about it, “Golden Gloves” lands a series of mean, sharp hooks right on the chin and “Mi-5’s Alive” explodes with wah-wah effects and proto-punk grit. All of which makes it easy to forgive the bar band banality of “Clean Slate” and the pointless mess of “Prelude to Clean Slate,”– mere blemishes soon forgotten as Bullfighter Blues begins to feel its oats after such an inauspicious introduction.