Mesa, Arizona-based Before Braille sound a bit like their compatriots Jimmy Eat World -- emo-driven, but with enough alterna-rock hooks and angry white boy sound to keep them catchy and commercial. If this sound can sustain its choke-hold on alterna-rock radio, Before Braille will experience an indie-style success that even a blind man could see.
Before Braille gives listeners a lot to love: a penchant for upbeat tempos, mildly humorous lyrics and DIY ethics, not to mention their flair for melody. They've got a knack for writing both ballads and noodly instrumentals, suggesting the work of both Pele and the Promise Ring. "Prelude, Secret No. 7", the instrumental opener, demonstrates the band's skill with their axes and skins: chiming guitars spool out slow chords, while the drums keep time as gently and reliably as an egg timer. The only bad thing about the song, which actually haunts my memory more than the band's poppier songs, is its title -- a cross between a perfume name and a Chopin composition.
The Rumor moves quickly forward. There's the hard-rocking "The Spanish Dagger", which rips itself open with Zippo-propelled guitars and rackety drums, like the sounds of a tuneful car wreck. By sequencing these tracks together, the band tips its hand early; you already know you're listening to a group that's significantly more versatile than the genre standard. "Twenty Four Minus Eighteen" lets you in on a secret -- wow, the group can harmonize, too! -- that earns them better credit on vocals than a slew of other emo bands. "Split Lip Envy" moves into acoustic guitar territory; while competently executed, it seems somewhat at odds with the rest of the tracks -- but once again, the guitar tones are so warm that you won't really care.
I wouldn't call The Rumor a pastiche, but it seems like Before Braille has combined the most desirable and enduring features from a variety of emo bands, creating a sort of "optimized" aesthetic. It works, too -- just when I'd decided that I could no longer be tickled by emo, Before Braille proved me wrong.