I first saw The Brute Chorus when they were one of the many attractions at the Cambridge ‘Wish You Were Here’ one-day festival in 2010. The venue was the pre-expansion gig room at The Portland Arms, the perfect setting for the up-close intensity and involvement of a genuinely original act.
It may have been a conventional line-up of drums, guitar/keyboards and bass but somehow the treated guitar twisted and changed to counterpoint the vocal stylings of singer James Steel. Blues, rockabilly, psychedelia and indie-pop; it was all in there with the added bonus of lyrical mini-operas involving death, classical and mythological characters, somehow given a wry retelling with a musical backdrop as sharp as a flick-knife. Their debut album, recorded in a live setting at the Roundhouse was sold in a hand-made wooden sleeve and it is splendid stuff indeed (standout tracks were the opener ‘Hercules’ and the paranoid brooding of ‘Chateau’. And probably the rest of the album too).
The second CD ‘How The Caged Bird Sings’ was more introspective but equally effective, the tracks ‘Could This Be Love?’ and ‘Heaven’ were both great pop songs. ‘(This Christmas) Bury Me In Hawaii’ was a dark seasonal recording, then another single, a support slot at Shepherds Bush Empire……and suddenly they were playing a ‘final’ gig and saying goodbye to many disappointed fans.
But all is not lost, James Steel has reinvented himself as James Brute, he has new recordings (including ‘Bury Yourself’, with a video performed inside a coffin..?!) and he is playing live again……