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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Brainiac: Hissing Prigs In Static Couture


1) Indian Poker (part 3); 2) Pussyfootin'; 3) Vincent Come On Down; 4) This Little Piggy; 5) Strung; 6) Hot Seat Can't Sit Down; 7) The Vulgar Trade; 8) Beekeepers Maxim; 9) Kiss Me, U Jacked Up Jerk; 10) 70 Kg Man; 11) Indian Poker (part 2); 12) Nothing Ever Changes; 13) I Am A Cracked Machine.

I seriously dislike the title of this album — sounds like four unrelated words joined together through random selection. If anything, it should have been named after one of its tracks — ʽHot Seat Can't Sit Downʼ is a near-perfect description for its overall sound. Which has not changed all that much since Bonsai Superstar — but now it is even wilder, faster, uglier, and crazier, so if you liked Superstar for all these reasons, you are almost legally bound to develop an even higher appreciation for Hissing Prigs.

Unless you already are an experienced consumer of various sorts of noise, some of the small arch-experimental links may be hard to fathom — if the industrially distorted «pan-fried» electric guitar duo on ʽIndian Poker (part 3)ʼ does not kill you on the spot, just wait until you get to the high-pitched electronic sirens on ʽIndian Poker (part 2)ʼ (boy, am I glad they declined to end the album with ʽIndian Poker (part 1)ʼ — that would probably have been the sonic torture to out­shame all other sorts of sonic torture). Even before that, the already major crazy ʽ70 Kg Manʼ, running along at top speed to the sound of fizzed-out punk guitars and dissonant overdubbed vocal harmonies of the chorus, is interrupted midway through by a «bridge» of electronically treated barking hounds — let me tell you, there's absolutely no fun in hearing this at top volume in headphones, and oh, my name is Peter Townshend, by the way.

But do not make the mistake that it's all about ugliness, either. Brainiac's chief influences are still the same — main cues taken from the Pixies and, through them, from the Ramones and other punkers who value fun, catchiness, and entertainment at least as much as they value rebellious­ness, schizophrenia, and social message. Once the initiation of ʽIndian Pokerʼ has diligently driven out all the «wusses» and «pussies», ʽPussyfootinʼ really turns out to be quite a conserva­tive rock track, oddly adorned only with Tim Taylor's inimitably screechy vocal style and a series of slightly deranged babbling interludes. And no amount of hysterical electronic effects can dis­guise the fact that ʽVincent Come On Downʼ is essentially just a solid slice of classic punk-rock, with nothing particularly «avantgarde» about its basic chord structure.

But do not make the mistake that it's really all so simplistic. The above-mentioned ʽHot Seatʼ, for instance, starts off with quite a tricky guitar riff and an even trickier time signature, well worthy of King Crimson — matters get simplified once Tim starts to sing, but the song switches gears several times and is, on the whole, far more complex than anything ever produced by, say, Nir­vana (not that it automatically makes it better — I am merely making a case here for Brainiac as a «musician's band» rather than a «general public band»). And the guitar melodies on ʽThis Little Piggyʼ, despite the relative simplicity of each, remain ever so slightly, but steadily and intentio­nally out of sync with each other, which means they are taking their clues from the avantgarde artists, after all. There's nothing like mapping craziness through intelligence.

But do not make the mistake that it's really all so esoteric. Once most of this stuff has properly sunken in, the professional headbanger will headbang to it all the way through to ʽNothing Ever Changesʼ, whose combination of galloping rock rhythm with catchy electronic pulse could make it into a ʽRock Lobsterʼ for the 1990s, and the closing ʽI Am A Cracked Machineʼ, which is also a damn good title — the whole song, heck, the whole album, dammit, this whole band has made a career out of portraying the daily routine events in the life of a «cracked machine», one that might be expected to churn out «normal» electronic music, but, due to its being cracked, turns out every­thing but normal — and loves every moment of it.

Even if your mind will not get attached to specific songs, it would be hard not to get involved in Brainiac's rusty robotic carnival as a whole. I hold no illusions for Brainiac's future — there is no guarantee that, had Tim Taylor not perished in an unfortunate auto accident a year later, they would have retained their edginess and freshness. The several songs they still had time to record and put out as an EP (Electro-Shock For President) show that the plan for the next stage was to relinquish guitars altogether and go completely electronic for a while — not the best idea, per­haps, because the songs became completely depersonalized and were unable to capitalize on Tim's eccentric individuality. Still, that's hardly a polite pretext to say that nobody will miss Tim Taylor — over those brief, but eventful several years, he did help out to make the decade a little more colorful and crazy, and Hissing Prigs is arguably the highest point of that color-add-on, so it gets yet another thumbs up from me, and with that, the story of Brainiac is over.

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