‘Jien tħawwilt ġo dan il-vojt il-kbir’
A Review of Brodu’s latest album Tfejt
by Luke Scerri
The cluttered cacophonic quality of Ħabullabullojb (the drunken tone of ‘Fil-Bosk’, the sarcasm of ‘Kemm Jiena Cool!!’ and the proclamatory temper of ‘Ma Tridx Tmur Mal-Feeling’) and its melancholic comedowns (‘Iċ–Ċimiterju’, ‘L-Ismack’ and ‘Sieħbi Jħobb Il-Lejl’) mix to create an explicitly surreal reflection of the hustle and bustle of contemporary Maltese life. The distinction between youth and adulthood is blurred and one’s identity, hopes and dreams are questioned in the face of a stark, disheartening reality where the founding question is ‘Fejn hu l-ferħ?’.
Like its predecessor, Brodu’s latest record Tfejt, is also an album that is filled with irony: sometimes subtle, as in ‘Tfejt’; at other times very blatant, as in ‘Għandi l-Għatx’ and ‘Dritt Għall-Qiegħ’. However, this does not interfere with Mark ‘iz-Żizza’’s sincere-sounding vocals and expressively spoken lyrics, as it is evident that they are of an intimate, reflective nature, doing away with the more aggressive instances that can be noted throughout their debut.
The fact that ‘Tfejt’ is also the opening song of the album, undermines the sense of closure, and of the idea of ‘switching off’, but also raises questions about the scope of the album. Both the lyrics and the music point towards this sense of letting go, and in some cases, Żizza’s laid-back vocals are soaked in ennui, and suggest a sense of complacency.
The mundaneness of the lyrics of Tfejt is characteristic of the particular domestic vibe that prevails throughout the two Brodu albums. Sometimes there are moments that evoke a bleak sense of disenchantment and boredom, implicit in the vocals and the melody, but again, this is also undermined by the very same two elements. Once again, Żizza seems to present some sense of solace in a cup of tea, in smoking with a friend, in a conversation with his grandparents, in the quiet of the night.
There is a melodic play between the sombre mood of tracks like ‘Is-Sena tal-Imħabba’ and ‘Miegħek Immur’ in their ethereal grace and melancholy, and the folky, psychedelic flow of ‘Sekwestrin’, ‘Erġajt Waqajt f’Koma’ and ‘Kanzunetta Biex Timla’ that keeps a certain consistency in the general tone of the album. To my mind, the truly euphoric moments in the album are the songs ‘Għandi l-Għatx’, ‘Kuraġġ Bezzina’ and ‘Il-Gorf’; three tracks which to me are exemplary of why people have high expectations for a Brodu song. Might I add that in my opinion those expectations, at least with this album, are soundly met.
Perhaps it is important to identify a distinction between a Brodu gig and a Brodu album, at least when it comes to their sound. In live performances, the band feel full of vitality and character, not in spite of, but as a result of their playful sloppiness. In contrast, the album’s production feels too processed and hinders the distinctive lo-fi quality that defines Brodu’s sound. This sound is inhabited by a peculiar quality of ‘Maltese-ness’ which grounds their music to a level that generates an intrinsically domestic and familial energy, and it is this distinctive energy that I believe is lacking from the album’s production.
Listeners will undoubtedly notice the influence of Lennon and McCartney and Yorke and Greenwood, not to mention the lo-fi atmospheric sounds of Mac Demarco and Ariel Pink, but I will refrain from pointlessly pointing these out since they don’t stand as particular individual sounds, but instead, they are made to blend in a way that produces a particular original work of music, with the Maltese identity as the epithet of the sound.
Brodu will be launching their album Tfejt at Spazzju Kreattiv.