Glasgow has always been a bit of a hot-house for musical talent, and with so much interesting noise happening in the city, it’s sometimes difficult to stand out from the pack. One band shining brightly amidst the creative milieu is Brenda, a trio whose mesmerising fusion of post-punk and dreamy synths pinches you on the cheek with one hand while stealing your pint with the other. Their self-titled debut album may be concise, but who counts the minutes when you’re having a great time?
Comprised of Litty Hughes, Apsi Witana, and Flore de Hoog (also of Water Machine), Brenda are all about harmonies with attitude and politically incisive lyrics. Are they The Raincoats, Mo-dettes, or Au Pairs for the Zoomer generation? Maybe. Are they another Wet Leg clone? Absolutely not (though Apsi and Flore were in a short-lived indie band called Wet Look). Their retro Korg synths sound polished, yet wonky. The edgy guitars are precise yet simple. No beats are spared in the job of making you want to dance. And, over it all, are the skillfully layered vocal harmonies. Whatever label you give it, Brenda makes music that is a refreshing and addictive delight.
The album opens with sing-along ‘Pigs’ and its screwy, cheeseball organ riff. Litty takes witty jabs at chauvinists and slackers, calling out “You’re a pig” with a smile and shoe in the face. ‘Cease and Desist’ follows, a surf-rock tale of restraining orders and trying to shake off the last stinking stains of a toxic relationship. The recent single ‘High Horse’ is written for “Eve, Helen, Regina. Societal deflection, sexism” and confronts its subject with biting authenticity. The sickly synth and sarcasm of ‘Slave Dad’ flips the male gaze back at pervy old men and their S&M fantasies. With its derisory double entendre, ‘Microscopic Babe’ is a gripping, close harmony calling out of“ bread-crumbing, ghosting, gas-lighting, power, dynamics, distortion, doubt“ in a relationship. The accompanying video (below) is a neat tribute to 50s/60s shock-horror B-movies, an era of film as ridiculous as it was compelling. Led by Flore’s more melancholic vocal, ‘Microscopic Babe‘ shows another side to Brenda’s songwriting and nudges nicely into another album highlight ‘Sure As’, with its sublime 1980s cinematic feel. ‘Shield’ carries a similar vibe, with Apsi’s understated drum fills, Litty’s surf guitar riffs, and Flore’s minimalist synth melting deliciously into a song about the protective auras we throw around ourselves. The album comes to a gentle close with ‘Sleep Walking’, a monochrome dream sequence through 50s rock ‘n’ roll, carefully decorated with synth tinsel sparkles.
It’s easy to see why Last Night From Glasgow snapped Brenda up. There’s more character in the album’s 23 minutes than there is in many double LPs. Beyond the music, Brenda’s name is just as intriguing. Inspired by a non-friendly hardware store assistant, the trio embodies that same authentic, badass butch energy transcending conventional norms in a male-dominated industry. As the band says: “Brenda owes you a pint. And Brenda certainly won’t do your DIY. But Brenda is Brenda”. Enough said.
‘Brenda’ is released on 28th July via Last Night From Glasgow.