Brainiac, Hissing Prigs In Static Couture
It's important to note that despite what you might (or might not) have heard, Brainiac weren't some sort of seminal electro-punk band who had a rough map of E****oC*$* plotted out before tha bomb dropped, nor did they predict the "second coming" of "new" "wave" "music" a-la-la-la Faint; one track was "recorded by Steve Albini in his basement" (if the liner notes are to be taken at their word), and if you think his surly ass would have any truck with some neo-disco shite yer sadly fookin' mistaken, punk! Nor should you let the sleek "lookit the generic trance I can churn out with the new version of Reason!" artwork mislead you; this record predates the corporate gate-crashing of the Internet, so that shouldn't be a concern in any case. Nope, Brainiac just knew and practised what loadsa great bands have for ages: straight-forward rawk can be complimented quite nicely by well-timed bleeponic tics that stick, stuck, shudder n' get under yer skin like the scabies that keep me awake every night, basting me with raw-red agony sauce, when will it end??? Anyway, the proof's in the pudding, as they say: no drum machines, just flat n' tight skin-pounding (ooh, sounds so titillating...which is a word that only causes further blushing!), skittery po-punk guitar angles inverted against each other, manic vocals and the aforementioned electronic shades. Think of all those 70's groups in which the keyboardist was just another member of the band; his or her presence (or even lack thereof!) wasn't a "statement" or "position" as it was for Kraftwerk or Numan (just the same as not having a lot of "credentials"), just another element. Excepting, of course, for the fact that Brainiac don't suck like ELO did. And also excepting, of course, for the progressive nature of said electronic flourishes in the case of all matters Brainiacian. Cuz if there's one thing that the kids are all about these days, it's PROGRESS!!!
Okay, the songs. I'm getting impatient in my old age, and if I don't have an existing inclination to like a rekkid due to previous exposure to the band's material, I've been getting impatient with albums that are too long; for some reason, everyone feels ripped-off if an LP isn't 70+ minutes long these days (except for The Locust, but people would forgive them for anything up to and including bestiality, seemingly), forgetting that most of thee canonical "classics" by almost any standard clock in at well under 45 minutes. Brainiac keep it to thirteen tracks for a total of 34:43 (three tracks are incidental happenstances rather than songs), and cover a soccer-stadium of turf. Blown-amp plodding of lead-off cut "Indian Poker [Part 3]" makes you worry you're in for the 3.9 to the tenth rehash of droning indie guitar-rock 101, but it's a fake-out and only lasts fifty-one seconds before a brisk ascending on-ramp kicks off the squelching, yelping vocals of "Pussyfootin'". The track shimmies from left to right like one of those annoying clown punching bags that don't stay down while singer Tim Taylor alternates between a preening, gargled falsetto and a low croak. Standout cut would be thee penultimate "Nothing Ever Changes", which accents opening taught bass n' drum head-nodding with staccato synth taps. Chorus T-bones you from the driver's side just as you've got this baby into fourth, and it's all swirling vocals so high-pitched they're nearly indistinguishable from what almost sounds like a theremin (but layered alongside Taylor's aforementioned half-dead grunt for the best of both worlds), punctuatory commands of "do it!" and sharp-as-fuck scrambled guitar runs. And it's tight, baby, tight. Toe tappin' happenin' and head bobbin' aboundin'.
So, with an album this great, why are these guys not touring like mad, making your town dance its ass off (you guys do dance here, right?) and just generally keeping quality control in effect? Because Taylor died in a car crash in 1997 and the band dissolved. Hate to head out on a downer, but it's kind of the elephant-in-the-room syndrome with any band that ends post-mortum of a member...and I forgot to mention it earlier. Sorry.