Hoboken’s Bern & the Brights kick off their crisp, bracing EP Work with “Slave Driver,” a track that, almost in sequence, introduces all the components of their multi-genre but coherent sound. Dub lasers, spy guitars and an uppity, ska-inflected verse give way to a pure, hooky guitar pop chorus that neither Big Star nor the Attractions would be ashamed of. And so it goes over the next six tracks: sweet, discretely layered guitar-jangle over skewered spawn-of-Radiohead and New Wave beats that invariably straighten out just in time for a legitimately big chorus.
The band is fronted by two singer/songwriters who are clearly on the same page, though sometimes in different books. Bernadette Malavarca (the “Bern” in the band, one assumes, and the lead guitarist throughout) seems a few iotas more prone to blues, soul and roots gesture (very subtly so – this is a pop band through and through); Catherine McGown’s songs incline a couple of degrees more toward crunchy modern guitar pop and alt/rock. In truth, you’ll need a credit sheet really to know the difference – at first, at least.
Work doesn’t let down for a minute. The hyperkinetic rhythm section Shawn Fafara (bass) and Jose UlloaRea (drums) handles the sharp corners and multiple groove and genre changes of these songs with verve and total command. And perhaps the EP’s most stunning feat is its three-dimensional guitar arrangements: detailed, contrapuntal, wildly diverse in timbre but always lucid and spacious. This is a mature, radio-ready recording, and one imagines that it rocks live.
Let’s find out: Bern & the Brights return to Market Market in Rosendale on Saturday, May 18 at 10 p.m. Market Market is located at 1 Madeline Lane in Rosendale. Call (845) 658-3164 or visit www.marketmarketcafe.com for more information. For more on Bern & the Brights, check out www.bernandthebrights.com.