Squeezing four kinds of freakout into a three-minute song is easy: bringing it together in a tight and downright moving performance is hard.
But when the canned electronics of Brainiac's Fresh New Eyes came pulsing from the P.A. at The Side Door, it cued these Dayton, Ohio freaks to work their musical villainry.
Brainiac celebrate weirdness and the band's live show is strange not only for the fact that they play clever songs like Sexual Frustration and Vincent Come on Down, but that it sure doesn't look like they could possibly be making the out-of-tune ruckus sound so good.
I am a cracked machine, screamed Timmy Taylor, and believe you me, you believed him. I am a cracked machine/I am a god-wine hussy/I am your favorite DJ/a blip on the screen/I am a cracked machine/I am a hot-shot robot/chart my position, I guarantee/you cannot get to me.
The song was just one of the band's anthemic aneurysms. With spittle flying and faces askew, Brainiac's de-tuned and mercurial rock spirit bubbled onto the tight crowd. A spastic dance pit of gracious fans quickly made the floor an exciting state of disorder.
There is no one secret to the Brainiac recipe; it's a mental mess of Moog and quirk. John Schmersal's guitar can get weird on command and never sound wrong. Tyler Trent keeps things loud and solid with hands-over-the-head drumming and Juan Monasterio is content to plod through his basslines in between karate stances. It all mixes into a something fun and strange: A welcome relief from the sanitized oddity of too many bands.
The song/catch phrase/command Go Freaks Go best summed Brainiac's position. And when the quirky chords of Hot Metal Dobermans from 1995's Bonsai Superstar leaked out, the freaks freaked both band and crowd. Flypaper, with its falsetto vocal stylings, and the up-front contempt of Radio Apeshot showed the band's bold and confidant variety.
But the night's big bonus was the renditions of three songs from the new Electro-Shock for President EP. The translation was a bit thin because the CD is full-on electronica, but Brainiac is filled with gimmickry and the band pulled it off thrift-store style.
Unfortunately, Brainiac is known for playing short sets with no encores. So the only gripe of the night was that for a band with so much eccentric energy, there was simply no reason to run out of steam and cut the freakout short.
Touch & Go labelmates The Delta 72 has The Blues Explosion in them, but the band gives Spencer and company a good run for the money. Preaching rock 'n' roll and no crowd control, The Delta 72 was a solid half-hour of get-down. Simian antics and sweat seemed to make believers out of the appreciative, but static, crowd
|By The Billy Keaggy | Originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1997||i am keaggy.com|