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Brookes & Johnstone - Album Review: When Summer Calls, Break Down the Walls

16 Aug 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Brookes & Johnstone sound like a pharmaceutical company, or a high street tailor with a side in patent leather shoes.

But they are not. They’re a couple of nearly old farts (unlike me, who are one) who make retro electro-synth pop and come from the Waikato.

Which is where the cows come from, and the leather.

Zed Brookes is a producer of some many notes and pedigree but Andrew Johnstone is a more colourful character who has been a journalist as well as a musician and has been called a polymath but is more known these days as the farmer who bolsters his spiritual health through talking (whispering) to his cows. “Why is a cow?”, is a question I often ask provocatively and only half in jest, but it could be that Andrew Johnstone has the answer.

But that’s another question and another answer because When Summer Calls, Break Down the Walls is Brookes & Johnstone’s second album and it’s full of funky soul dark grooves with spoken lyrics and call and response questions like “who’s that standing in the door” and flourishing keyboard answers like Got a Really Good Feeling.

Take a Deep Breath before you say something you might regret provides further advice in a Right Said Fred kind of way, perhaps another reference to life’s lessons learned. It’s catchy, it’s funky, it’s therapy of a sort that might make you want to dance with the cows, I mean each other.

Summer Honey has no lyrics, but a richer fuller synth pop right out of the 80’s sound.

And then one of three standout tracks and the first single, Girl with the Silver Eyes with a delightful melody and the voices interacting and interchanging in therapeutic harmony.

Can’t Get High starts off with a sexy synthy-sax riff but fails to rise to the aspirations of the title. But we get over that with the albums truly 60’s moment as we dream of girls from California, California  with a wee-oo, wee-oo and psychedelic undertones. And the word “quintessential” which is the best of all words, especially in a song.

Catbus starts with a squawkish sound a little like a herd of baying cows (maybe I’m overdoing this?) but remains a touch psychedelic and also fails to get high. Dreams and Will also fail to Collide  but just as the album threatens to meander into mediocre, we get the third standout Something in the Way which is not a Nirvana cover but not that far removed. Dreamy.

Bouyant closes out the album, an optimistic outcome from some of the dark feelings which permeate the lyrics and the sound and the whispering voices. A redemptive song, if not overly reliant on induced stimulus, but perhaps just a nod to the album title, and the power of summer calling us to break down the walls.

If you are a Breaks Co-op fan, you will surely like Brookes & Johnstone. Check it out….

Brookes & Johnstone’s When Summer Calls, Break Down the Walls is out now on most streaming services (even Qobuz) and the movie When The Cows Come Home featuring the music as well as the story of Andrew Johnstone and his cows, has just been released as part of the New Zealand Film Festival. Check them both out and dance till those pesky cows come home.

Rating: ( 3 / 5 )

About Brookes & Johnstone

Zed Brookes has been involved with Tandys Recording Studio, The Zoo Studio and later WINTEC’s recording facility at the Department Of Media Arts, and helped revolutionise the Waikato scene by providing scores of bands and musicians with the opportunity to lay down world-class tracks with cutting edge equipment. His diverse credits include Midge Marsden, Knightshade, The Datsuns, Katchafire, The Narcs and way too many more to mention.

In between time he has also found time for his own music, including Step Chant Unit, whose 1985 hit Painting Pictures went top 40 on the NZ charts (the first Hamilton band to achieve this feat).
He recently released a well-received solo alt-pop-rock album O Sweet Cacophony in 2016.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Brookes & Johnstone


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