Babbling Brooks

That Other Paper’s Nicole Haddad and Adam Avramescu decided to listen to Chambers’ EP Long Story Short and record their thoughts in dialogue form.

What we know: Brooks Chambers is from Austin. His bio says, “Brooks Chambers makes music with various implements in his production facility in Austin, Texas. Dabbling in the arts of guitar, piano, cello, and the Baldwin fun machine, he longs to create a thought provoking experience that will ultimately be to his audience’s benefit. He also writes his bio in the third person.”

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Brooks Chambers Long Story Short 

His MySpace profile describes his music as “pop/folk/glam” and he lists his influences as Tom Waits, Elton John, and David Bowie. The most played song is “Colour,” with 6,884 plays as of May 21, 2007.

Track one: “Lullaby”

Adam Wow, listen to that croon. I’m trying to figure out who he’s impersonating here. Not throaty enough for Tom Waits. Maybe Tom Petty.

Nicole Not raspy enough.

Adam Tom Jones?

Nicole Maybe. Yes. Good call.

Adam I’m getting a “What’s New Pussycat”-era Tom Jones. Is that song sexual innuendo? Like “Tutti Frutti”?

Nicole I really hope so. So that was the end of the first track.

Adam Oh, it’s over? The quintessential ambient first track.

Nicole Yeah, sort of getting you ready for the rest of the EP.

Track two: “The Honey Tree”

Nicole This song I really enjoy. It puts me in a good mood. I have a plan to make a mix CD of all the songs that make me happy, and I think that this is going to go on it.

Adam I like the wall-of-sound accordion thing he’s got going on.

Nicole I do too, but I think it gets to be a little overpowering, especially at the end of the song.

Adam I was being sarcastic, actually. This song reminds me of… I wanna get some riblets now. And a kiwi limeade. It’s the Applebee’s jingle. “Eatin’ gooood in the neighborhood.”

Nicole I don’t care if it sounds like a commercial. Whatever he’s selling, I’m definitely buying. The female back-up singer bugs me.

Adam If Of Montreal can do the Outback song, I’m pretty sure they can get this guy on for Applebee’s.

Nicole Well I think it’s really fun. It’s dancy.

Adam If I want to dance, give me “Crazy in Love.” That’s probably in my top five songs of all time. That, and “Tubthumping.”

Nicole Please tell me you’re joking. I need to know the rest of them.

Track three: “Colour”

Nicole I like this song because so few people write in 3/4 time any more. It’s a totally underutilized time signature.

Adam I think Ben Folds wrote this song.

Nicole That’s probably why I like it so much. So back to your top your top five.

Adam “It Wasn’t Me.” “Lovefool.” “All-Star.”

Nicole I like “Lovefool.”

Adam I do, too. That’s why it’s in my top five. Okay, so we’ve got some Ren Fair flute going on here in this song. I’m not a minimalist, but this kind of over-produced two-chord schmaltz gets on my nerves. That’s right – I said schmaltz. I don’t think you can get away with this unless you’re Rufus Wainwright. He kind of sounds like Rufus Wainwright. But didn’t the last song have two chords, too? [Ed: “Colour” has more than two chords.] And why is he spelling “Colour” with a u?

Track four: “Fairytale Ending”

Nicole Well, I’m not ashamed to admit that I like schmaltz. I think it has its place. Rufus is one of my favorites.

Adam I like Rufus, too. But I don’t think everyone can get away with it. Rufus and Ben Folds.

Nicole Since Brooks plays piano, there are definitely going to be a lot of Ben and Rufus comparisons.

Adam They both play piano and have no sense of tact.

Nicole Don’t say that about Ben Folds. I’ll kill you.

Adam I like Ben Folds, but he has no sense of tact.

Nicole I don’t agree with that at all. I think his songs are honest. Brooks sounds a lot like Rufus Wainwright covering “Hallelujah” here.

Adam I just realized we haven’t even talked about the lyrics. What does he say here? “This fairy tale ending is just the beginning”? That’s terrible. I can use oxymoron, too. This is the best piece of crap I’ve ever heard. I’m going to give you a chance to defend this album. You have one song left to sell me on this album.

Nicole Good thing there’s only one song left, then. It’s sort of a sea shanty.

Adam Good. I like the Decemberists.

Nicole It doesn’t sound like the Decemberists.

Adam How can you write a sea shanty without it sounding like the Decemberists?

Track five: “Sing with the Sailors”

Adam Oh, that’s how.

Nicole It’s sort of like a minuet. It reminds me of piano lessons when I was a kid. Maybe that’s why I like it, for nostalgia’s sake. He’s channeling an 18th-century sea captain.

Adam Or David Bowie. Maybe in the 18th Century the group choral ending wasn’t cliché.

Nicole And that’s the end.

Adam Well, listen, there’s clapping. It must have been good.

Last Words

Nicole Originality is hard to find in the music industry these days, especially considering the dominance of four-piece all-male alt-rock bands. Brooks Chambers may be fighting a losing battle in the current musical climate. It’s just him and a piano and quite a bit of orchestration. Horns, flutes, and cellos don’t really play well to radio audiences. The songs have the sweeping grandiosity of a musical and the earnestness of the guy at the open mic night at your local coffee shop. At times it may sound over-produced and a bit commercial, but overall it’s an enjoyable way to spend 17-and-a-half minutes. Sure, there are others that do what Brooks does – and with more skill – but for a first effort it shows a lot of promise.

Adam Sorry, Nicole, but I just don’t buy it. You know that whole thing about guys with small dicks buying huge trucks or sports cars? That’s what all the instrumentation here feels like to me. I know he’s trying to come off as glam, but that doesn’t really translate to this sort of melodic pop. It just ends up sounding needlessly busy and contrived. Look at someone like Sufjan Stevens. He can track 20 instruments onto a song and still give each one a distinct texture. Or even David Byrne’s solo material, like “Look into the Eyeball.” It’s completely overloaded with a full orchestra, but at least he makes it sound cohesive. And that’s because he took the time to craft a good song underneath all the noise. Brooks ‘n’ Chambers is just taking stale ideas (ambient opener, two-chord dirty-rice rocker, 3/4 ballads, sea shanty) and dressing them up with orchestral noodling. It feels derivative and manipulative – and, worst of all, nauseatingly overproduced. So I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one.

Final rating: Spare the brook, spoil the chambers.

Get reviewed Adam and Nicole are no longer on speaking terms, but they are in search of more CDs to review. If you’ve got a CD you’d like us to review, send it to: That Other Paper / PO Box 66458 / Austin, TX 78766.

Video: Brooks Chambers plays “The Honey Tree”

Comments

Brooks Chambers's picture

Hey guys,
I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to listen to the record and share your thoughts. It’s much appreciated.
So long,
Brooks Chambers

Anonymous's picture

You people don’t give him enough credit. He is amazing and doesn’t sound like all the crap thats everywhere nowadays. You can tell he believes what he writes/sings.

Kate's picture

Hey,
Personally I think these guys are amazing. But I was wondering…where can I find the lyrics for “colour”? It’s such a beautiful song…first time I heard it, it made me cry.

Montez's picture

I’d have to say that I have been thoroughly impressed with Brooks Chambers. When he came to Athens, GA a few weeks back with Band Marino he completely captivated the audience he was playing for. I’ve never been to a show where I did not know the artist and leave so impressed. He is not only an amazing musician but has a stage presence that could get him far. I’ve listened to this CD over and over since the show and I think it’s fantastic.

Anonymous's picture

I think Brooks is amazingly courageous for the type of music he creates. He is super, super talented. His music and lyrics are deeply heart-felt, and lovely. I have been to numerous shows and witnessed everyone in the crowd looking at him adoringly and singing a long, every word.

Tessa's picture

If Brooks Chambers is Applebees, then I don’t want to be El Bulli.