Lonely The Brave have always deserved better than they’ve gotten, even at their biggest. For one, they were never adequately platformed, as they became bundled in with the Britrock crowd that they always far surpassed. The similarities began and ended at being a British alt-rock band; beyond that, Lonely The Brave’s permutation has always been far different, eschewing the instant gratification of their peers for something in the grander vein of post-rock, or even Deftones. And while that was acknowledged by a scene willing to propagate something great, the space to resonate just wasn’t there. They were never your ‘ordinary’ alt-rock band, no matter how far down the crossover route they got. With a more elevated sound and a frontman in David Jakes who had an incredible voice but clearly no aspirations of the rockstar spotlight, the scene around them just wasn’t sufficiently equipped.
And so, when Jakes departed and was replaced by Jack Bennett (of his own excellent alt-rock project Grumble Bee), it’s little surprise that Lonely The Brave’s buzz evaporated. Industry fickleness can make it hard for any band through regular practice, let alone one rebuilding after a rug-pull from underneath some already uncertain foundations. It’s a shame since The Hope List was also really good, though saddled with the excessive burden of being a January release in the heart of the pandemic. They’ve stood valiantly since with Bennett as a perfect fit, but the lack of full recovery has shown itself in how What We Do To Feel has been arriving with little fanfare. Granted, that isn’t too shocking considering its creators, but it’s routinely frustrating that Lonely The Brave keep putting out quality without getting the recognition it should. This is another one—What We Do To Feel is, indeed, good, to the surprise of no one who’ll have stuck around from the start.
But at the same time, even those people will likely acknowledge that their debut The Day’s War remains untouched as a peak that’s looking ever more unassailable. That’s still the top-tier Lonely The Brave experience, and the definition of what made them special, among which are features that may have been lost or redirected in their post-David Jakes output. These songs are still big, but they’re not replicating the same elemental grandeur. For example, Trick Of The Light was a functionally upbeat alt-rock song, but was shackled tightly to the earth to still feel and be influenced by the tectonic shifts beneath its feet. Here, with Bennett at the helm, the same weight isn’t quite there, instead opting for a more ‘normal’ palette on Colour Me Sad or Eventide, in the strings sections that can often be shorthand for sweeping emotion.
While that may be a step down in its own context, though, What We Do To Feel has much more to offer. Lonely The Brave are by no means kowtowing to Britrock conventionality here; if The Hope List could sometimes feel like that, here’s the significant pull back. Bennett on his own merits remains terrific as a frontman for this band in particular, where his contributions are built on a required vocal weight that he’s really great at delivering. A song like Unseen finds the gravel and loose articles swilling around in his timbre used to full effect, a roaring release of humanity that’s become Lonely The Brave’s staple over the years. Even on songs like Long Way or Our Sketch Out, which could otherwise feel attuned to the 2010s Britrock wavelength that many of its patrons have found difficult to break from, Bennet is simultaneously the grounded centrepiece, and another additional piece of stress and tension that makes this so compelling.
There have been exceptionally few half measures taken throughout Lonely The Brave’s career, and it’s so encouraging to see that What We Do To Feel isn’t that at all. The Good Life may have been this new incarnation’s adjustment period, but the follow-up finds the tremendous qualities flooding back in. There’s a noteworthy playing style that’s always been interesting, now pitched between boulder-rending post-rock might and a more widely approachable sense of anthemia that assimilates surprisingly well. There’s definitely that empowered swell on a song like The Lens, woven by tones mirroring a brighter sky being cried towards, as opposed to one churning and roiling with nature’s tempestuous enormity. The great thing, though, is that that’s still here. Victim especially stands out in that regard, with the dryer, hostile instrumental tone that’s genuinely not far from the most melodic of black-metal, emphasised by the screams that line portions of its background. There’s also In The Well and The Bear, in which the gritted-teeth guitars align with a power and a melancholy that’s so indicative of every strength in Lonely The Brave’s locker. They’re so great at this sound that they practically monopolise in modern alt-rock, and the resonance is still there in spades.
And, y’know, even if the peaks aren’t as mountainous as they previously were, that’s still only a criticism that holds water comparatively. What We Do To Feel as a body of work unto itself is the kind of thing that the 2010s alt-rock set would be clamouring to make, even today. The creativity is genuine and the heart is unmistakable, bearing a tone distinctive to Lonely The Brave that’s carried over impeccably. That’s where their greatest feats have always come from, and there’s enough about What We Do To Feel for it to be comfortably included among those ranks. The returning rise of Lonely The Brave has been long overdue, and it’s wonderful that this is the form it’s taking.
For fans of: Black Foxxes, Arcane Roots, Deftones
‘What We Do To Feel’ by Lonely The Brave is released on 10th November on Easy Life Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall