Braid - Movie Music / Lucky to be Alive
Polyvinyl / Glue Factory

Has indie rock turned into gangsta rap? Braid seem to think so, what with
releasing three CDs and one video less than a year after their
breakup. Can anyone guess how long we'll have to wait before we're treated
to a Bob Nanna / Tupac Shakur / Notorious B.I.G. collaboration?

Anyway, aside from the obvious silliness of flogging a barely-dead horse, and charging $11 for each disc of Movie Music instead of packaging it as a double-disc and selling it for about $15, three seperate CDs by Braid showed up in my mailbox over a week or two in February.
The first to arrive was Movie Music, so I'll tackle that first. Movie Music is a double-CD compilation of pretty much every non-album track Braid recorded. Disc 1 contains all of Braid's songs from 7" singles and splits. Disc 1 reads practically like a best-of -- it contains I'm Afraid of Everything, What a Wonderful Puddle, First Day Back, and over a dozen more of Braid's songs. It all culminates in the songs making up Braid's mediocre last 7", Please Drive Faster and Circus of the Stars. Disc one ends with You're Lucky to be Alive, recorded at the same time as the Please Drive Faster 7", but unreleased til now (probably to make sure the collector nerds had a reason to buy this disc!).
Disc two is the weaker of the two discs musically, but perhaps the one that will appeal more to collector nerds. It compiles all of Braid's compilation appearances and cover songs. Disc two starts off with Elephant, showcasing Braid's first singer, a girl named Kate Reuss. Disc two quickly moves into more familiar territory, and it is easy to see how Braid evolved. Most of the songs on disc two suffer from poor recording, and it doesn't exactly make the songs sound any better. My favorite song on either disc comes about two-thirds of the way through disc two -- Travis Morrison (of the Dismemberment Plan, billed here as DJ Baby Trav Trav) does a somewhat interesting remix of A Dozen Roses. Unfortunately, he doesn't really change much around, only adding a keyboard to the background and making the song seem to be slower than the original. Immediately after this remix, Braid decides to throw a half dozen covers at the listener, ranging from Billy Joel to the Smiths, to the Pixies. The covers all sound flat -- like maybe they were a good idea when the band had been drinking a little too much, but some of these things would have been best left for the band, and not offered to the general public.
Moving on to the live album, Lucky to be Alive, reminds me of the one time I saw Braid. It was Braid's last show (sorry to all of you kids at the Fireside or the Metro who say you were at Braid's last show -- I saw the shit go down in Champaign at Mabel's -- the *real* last show) and I hadn't eaten all day for some reason. Mabel's didn't have ins-and-outs, so I was stuck inside the hot club on an August night waiting for Braid to break up so I could get some dinner. They sounded OK that night, but I can honestly remember thinking only one thing -- "break up so I can eat dinner!"
Listening to Lucky to be Alive reminds me of these feelings, but not so much so that I can't enjoy the music. Whereas Movie Music is more of an odds-and-ends compilation, Lucky really serves as a best-of. Every song on here is good, even if the recording isn't that great (was there anyone playing bass on any of these songs?). There is plenty of enthusiastic crowd noise, which is a plus, but there has been some edited out, as well. The band barely speaks on this disc, except to repeatedly say "Thank you" to the audience. I know people who were at this show that told me that Braid played more songs than the 17 included herein. They also tell me that dialog is missing. I thought maybe they edited some of the "filler" out so that this could fit on a CD, but there appears to only be 57 minutes of music on here, so who knows where that extra 17 minutes went.
If you're a Braid fan, you already own Movie Music. If you're not a big Braid fan, like myself, do yourself a favor and buy Lucky to be Alive, as it contains all the songs you'll ever want to hear from this band.
...john heisel...

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