Just after 9/11/01, Luke and Daniel Brindley left their home in New York and moved to Washington, DC, where they opened a live-music venue called Jammin’ Java and even drew praise from President Bush for embodying the “entrepreneurial spirit” (no, I’m not kidding). Released by Paste Records, the label arm of the bimonthly magazine, Playing with the Light is just what I’d expect from that journal: warmed-over singer-songwriter roots rock, aimed at adults who find Rolling Stone too stupid and the proliferating subgenres of electronica too confusing. Now, I dig Paste, but the Brindley Brothers exemplify the type of music that makes me resent being in the . . ., er, out of the 18-25 year-old demographic. There’s nothing specifically wrong with this album; it just falls flat, failing to fulfill its promise of either brooding intensity or swinging melodicism. It comes closest to the latter on “Roman Candle,” a jaunty Beatlesque number replete with horns and a toe-tapping singalong chorus. But most of the album can’t escape the middle of the road, constantly pulled back by Luke’s sincere-but-still-lacking vocals (which remind me of Toad the Wet Sprocket, but not necessarily in a good way). Perhaps inspired by 9/11 and the troubled three years since, there are a number of lyrical references to light and flames here—”Slow Burn,” “Supernova,” the title track—but Playing with the Light might be more appropriately described as “smoldering.” Whether the fire’s going out or just getting started is hard to guess; I’ll wait until their next album to decide. Call me Luke-warm on the Brindleys.
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