Bram Tchaikovsky was a group as well as Peter Brammell’s nom de rock, but it was the lack of a similarly strong second creative force to him in the band that proved to be its undoing. The ex-Motors guitarist/bassist/vocalist had the talent to make his band work for a while, but couldn’t maintain its quality alone.
Strange Man, Changed Man sounds fresh and punky (if rather trebly) — an energetic mixture of the Byrds, Springsteen and, not surprisingly, the Motors. (Nick Garvey, one of Bram’s ex-bandmates, co-produced.) The LP includes three fine singles (the wonderful “Girl of My Dreams,” written by a member of the Heavy Metal Kids, as well as “I’m the One That’s Leaving” and “Sarah Smiles”); the rest of the material has also worn remarkably well.
Expanding from a trio to a quartet and doing the production themselves, Bram (the band) came up with a sophomore effort (The Russians Are Coming retitled Pressure for the cold-war-minded USA) that improves the sound but has far less consistent songs, with writing divided among various combinations of the members.
Subsequent personnel shifts left Bram (the man) with neither satisfactory writing partners nor an alternate (or harmony) vocalist to shore up his own shortcomings. An attempt to pursue several ill-advised directions makes Funland (production again by Garvey) lifeless. The only times Bram’s tepid vocals cut loose are on the oft-covered “Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache” and an old Motors B-side, “Soul Surrender,” recorded as an afterthought by Bram, Garvey and deputized drummer Hilly Michaels.