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Even if you’ve never heard of Brad Brooks, if you’re a gamer, you’ve heard him. That’s him on Guitar Hero II doing the Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” and “Strutter” by KISS; on Karaoke Revolution (NTSC) covering the Black Crowes’ “She Talks To Angels.” You can also find him doing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on A Prayer” and the Stones “Paint It Black” on Karoake Revolution Presents American Idol Encore 2.
The Tuscon raised, Bay area-based singer/guitarist’s originals are just as impressive. For his third outing, Brooks flavors his pop with a ’70s sensibility, stirring in influences from the Beatles to Hall and Oates. “Calling Everyone” is reminiscent of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes whipping up the crowd at the Stone Pony into a sweaty frenzy. There’s plenty of Beatles influences sprinkled throughout. Brooks shouts frantically like John Lennon in his Plastic Ono Band days over industrial psychedelic guitar shredding on “Spinner and the Spun.” “Steal My Disarray” sounds like George Harrison crooning over his weepy guitar. T“Exemplary Girl” could be an unlikely pairing of Paul McCartney duetting with Hall and Oates; “Will It Be Enough” sounds like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy accompanied by Harrison on guitar.
But this is no nostalgia celebration, no retro shmoozefest. Although many of his instrumental influences may be based on soothing melodies from the past, Brooks’ lyrics are gritty and down to earth. “Mephistopheles, I ain’t no sucka.” he barks on “Spinner and the Spun,” “Evil doesn’t even know that it is/ it’s a race between the spinner and the spun.”
If you insist on labeling Brooks, pop revisionist is the best fit. In his hands, pop is taken out of the puberty market and made suitable for listeners with a little more life experience.