Written by Chris Osifchin
The exponential rise of Asbury Park duo Brick + Mortar is no mere coincidence, no random stroke of luck. As the scene in Asbury continues to grow, so has its talent. While BRMR may sound somewhat removed from the city’s roots in rock and punk, they share more similarities than you’d expect from a “drum and bass” group. The epic sweep of the BRMR is not only what they share with their Asbury Park ancestors, but also what sets them apart. How many bands do you know that can pull off a sound as big as BRMR with just two people?
Two years removed from the success of Bangs, the Asbury Park duo Brick + Mortar return with an even bigger bang on their EP Dropped. The pair have become excellent songwriters and it shows.
The album opens with “Train,” a simple number that never quite gets where it wants to go, but that’s the point. Brick + Mortar whips out a time-honored rock ‘n’ roll tradition, the romantic runaway. “I’ve got a secret window/And I’m gonna take you there,” they sing, but as the song continues, it’s clear that the song’s protagonist is waiting on someone who’s never going to join them. It’s a solid song, inviting the listener to join BRMR on that train ride.
“For Yellow Walls,” is like a funhouse mirror, distorted and strange, eerie and frightening, as rollercoaster vocals and airy synths creep. The drums click and clack to create a beautiful atmosphere of claustrophobic anxiety and the dynamic rolls like the rollercoaster to the tallest drop, only to come speeding back down. It’s hard not to get the same feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach when the beat drops out the bottom. Describing a fiery on again, off again relationship, “For Yellow Walls” is the best song on the album. It’s easy to feel the yellow walls closing in.
Brick + Mortar are at their best when they are moody and contemplative. “Move to the Ocean,” is a dark tune, almost post apocalyptic in its sentiment. The protagonist and his companion are hiding something, some kind of dark past. It doesn’t seem like the companion wants to join the move to the ocean as BRMR sings, “We’ll move to the ocean/to feed off the daylight/was hoping that you’d understand.” Coupled with a jittery backbeat and a big bassline that’s badass enough for any supervillain montage, the protagonist finally jumps out from behind his past and says he’s going to make a stand. It’s a fitting mission for a band looking to make a statement.
With no track over four minutes, Brick + Mortar knows the limit of their sound. The arrangements on all the tracks are set up nicely, with a keen sense of a pop tune. While their sound is anything but pop, the fact remains that pop songwriting has provided a structure that works and is familiar to listeners everywhere. A beautiful combination of pop and rock sensibilities anchors BRMR, but they’ve created an interesting niche within the industry, as well as Asbury Park. Brick + Mortar can share the stage with an electronic act or a punk band, they’re that versatile. With Dropped, BRMR is poised for a big break.