It would be easy to dismiss Brothers McCann as just another groovy holdover from Boston’s eternally milquetoast acoustic-pop college band scene. Based strictly on surface appeal, that description, unflattering as it is, might suffice. But first impressions can be deceiving. And digging more deeply into the Beantown quintet’s debut full-length, Different Colors, reveals a collection of mature, sonically rich tunes played by a polished, if insufferably cheery, group of ace musicians.
“Still Somebody Else” leads off and offers glimpses of the band’s sunny disposition. Keyboardist and vocalist Pat McCann coos classic soul lines with a silky smooth delivery that owes a heavy debt to Stevie Wonder. Blatantly aping Wonder is borderline sacrilege ... unless you have the chops to pull it off. And Pat McCann (mostly) does.
“Roll Down” is next and introduces brother Mike McCann as a songwriter and co-front man. “Jah, we all feel frustration,” the rhythm guitarist sings in a husky but easy tone. “Pushing harder though we feel true strain. / Wishing you would send us an angel / Imagine joy when you only cry pain,” he continues. Limp, feel-good platitudes concerning rivers, sunshine, rain, fate and frontal lobotomies follow in similarly grating fashion. OK, I made up the lobotomy part, but you get the idea. On the plus side, the tune imparts a seriously slinky groove, as do most of the offerings on Colors.
While both McCann brothers make compelling front men, as lyricists they are equally prone to pearls of bumper-sticker wisdom, which, given their immense vocal talents, they can usually get away with. But the band’s instrumental polish and attention to detail in arrangements really lend these tunes some much-needed ballast. Or at least an ass-shakin’ groove. In particular, bassist — and Plainfield native — Dan Bissex is the glue, delivering alternately elegant and muscular lines and displaying an innate knack for taking over at just the right moments. He epitomizes the band’s striking versatility, whether holding down a bottom heavy funk riff, letting loose on a groovy jam or stretching out with flights of Steely Dan-inspired jazz-rock whimsy.
“Shambles” is a standout and an example of the group’s true potential. Following a soothing string intro, Pat McCann channels his inner Jamiroquai over a humming, retro funk-pop groove. The tune is richly layered, featuring a variety of surprising, dynamic twists and turns. The song undoubtedly will keep listeners on their toes. And, hell, it might even put a spring in their step and a smile on their faces.
Catch Brothers McCann at Radio Bean this Friday and at Charlie O’s in Montpelier this Saturday.