Personnel: Prose (vocals); Lee Royle (guitar); Charlie Hugall, James Murray, Hanni Ibrahim, Mustafa Omer (drum programming).
Photographer: Jan Klos.
Growing pains and coming of age create a heart-swell on the genre-blurring debut LP from Manchester trio Prose. Home of the Brave combines the confessional rapping of Mike Murray, the guitar of Lee Royle, and the strong songwriting and production of Dave Stone, resulting in an excitingly different sonic option. Murray is frequently compared to Mike Skinner (the Streets), but aside from the fact that they are two British lads with buzz cuts who can rap, Prose's music veers closer to the intensity of Eminem at his most confessional, Lukas Graham at his most wistful, and Twenty One Pilots at their most boundary-smashing. Home of the Brave can be neatly divided into thirds, with each portion thematically and sonically satisfying in different manners. The first four tracks are urgent and yearning, allowing Murray's heartfelt lyrics to wax nostalgic on tales of youth and memory. "Ballad" is the knockout highlight, a poignant and earnest number that seethes with frustration and rage. "Caravan" heaps on the sentiment, longing for simpler times when video games, sleepovers, and young love were life's biggest concerns. The midsection is the energetic heart that gives life to the album. "Mountains" is their big Oasis number, which includes the best singalong chorus that Noel Gallagher never wrote. A pair of rousing ditties -- "Half the Man" and "Further" -- inspire body-rocking and head-nodding, the few moments on the album that are purely fun. In the concluding third, Prose go inward once again, tapping into a more emotional well. "All Too Familiar" is deeply introspective, almost desperate in its earnestness, while "Have It All" and "Let Us Down" are moving tearjerkers. After a journey from heartfelt innocence to powerful anthems, Prose cap off the brooding coda with "Mr. 1 & Mr. 2," a rage-filled street tale that is packed with tension and Murray's closest tribute to Eminem on Home of the Brave. With so many sonic pieces to this puzzle, the rap-meets-indie-guitar idea might sound jarring. But at the core, they are both forms of confession, stripping the bells and whistles away, baring the soul. Combining youth, hope, and a dose of gravity, Home of the Brave is a strong debut from a fearless trio unafraid to toy with genre while staying true to their message. ~ Neil Z. Yeung