After taking a full year to record their full-length debut, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On, Los Angeles’ The Brokedown were forced to change their name after a cease-and-desist from a Chicago band of the same name. Eschewing any Brokedown Jr. or The SuperBrokedown (the suggestion of their label, Merge Records), they became The Broken West – a name similar, but not too similar, and pointing to their home without actually breaking from the rest of the country. The Broken West’s first release reads much the same way: hardly reinventing the power-pop wheel, but with still their own spin on things, and pointing to their Beach Boys/Beatles influence without shunning today’s indie music.
Highly reminiscent of Apples in Stereo and others, The Broken West may be based on the pop of the sixties, but that is still a wide pool, and on I Can’t Go On, they take from all ends. The band is at their best when they draw from quality Beatles, like the tuneful "Down in the Valley", the one holdover from their one EP as The Brokedown, Dutchman’s Gold ("Valley" both led it off and provided the record’s title). The indie guitars and distortion fit very well with the source material, as they do on another particularly strong track with Liverpudlian echoes, "Abigail", a catchy "song about a girl" that plucks at the heartstrings just enough, but not too much.
Other roads may not deliver quite as impressive results, but the "somber Beatles" of "Shiftee" or "Hale Sunrise" provide great atmosphere and connection, while the more Beach Boys-esque guitars of "Brass Ring" and "Slow" are incredible, and "Baby On My Arm" only suffers from being too catchy. However, there are some missteps on I Can’t Go On. Middle track ‘Big City’ overuses its stop-start effects, whereas the following "You Can Build an Island" is too light and airy. And the album’s finisher, "Like a Light", has moments of greatness as a sad song in the fashion of The Byrds, but they unfortunately are wading in a more emo sea.
After asking the then-Brokedown to open for him, Jason Faulkner (ex-Air, Travis, and Beck), declared that the band is “not post-anything.” The Broken West certainly isn’t a band that feels that it has to throw away that which came before. For the most part, their indie-pop stylings are well done and well received, and if they hit some wrong notes, at least they’re willing to reach farther and wider in their attempts.