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The Brains – The Monster Within album review

There might just be some truth in the complaint that all the good band names are taken. If nothing else, it would explain why so many have taken to using phrases as monikers instead of the more traditional two or three word calling cards. It’s either that or recycle fantastic-but-taken names by long forgotten bands. It is the latter that causes difficulty in tracking down information on the intended version of a band. In this case, it’s the reason why most simple internet searches, and even the band’s Spotify biography, list The Brains as an early 80’s “new wave quartet from Atlanta.”

Thankfully, three seconds worth of The Monster Within proves that these aren’t The Brains they’re referring to! These Brains hail from Montreal, Quebec and lay down authentic, ripping psychobilly/horror-punk. The albums cover art single-handedly encompasses all the absurdity and seriously rough darkness the genre offers, and the music inside is the perfect blending of auditory expectations.

The band’s Facebook page lists influences such as Motorhead and Venom, but it seems to me that vocalist/guitarist Rene De La Muerta took a huge page out of the book of Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin. Beyond simply the tone and color of the two voices, The Brains make excellent use of the enriching, uplifting harmonies, a signature keynote of the Bad Religion sound. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine this mixed up in some kind of file-sharing mix up, erroneously labeled as Bad Religion’s horror-punk side project; it’d be a believable sell.

The melodic nature of the record seeks to further the comparison. Songs like “Bleed” and “Rest In Pieces” are infectiously catchy rockabilly songs…. with lyrics barely lighter than classic, Danzig-era Misfits tunes. In fact, nearly every song on the album is an instant, stand alone success, with one listen being all that’s necessary to firmly cement itself in your head. It will be hard to keep this one out of near permanent rotation in your collection, it’s impossible not to enjoy listening to it.

As much as I was impressed by the similarities with Graffin and co., I don’t mean to insinuate that The Brains are merely a Bad Religion knockoff; these guys have some chops themselves. Perhaps the albums’ single greatest attribute is that they have achieved a perfect balance of both punk and 50’s and early 60s rockabilly. For his part, bassist Colin The Dead beats the hell out of the upright and Pat Kadaver completes the driving rhythm section, faster and more maniacal than any rockabilly drummer ever should be, but never succumbing to the all out kit assault of pure punk, either. The guitar tone has been cleaned up and brightened from previous releases, giving the higher register a more authentic older sound. The instrumental, “Cucaracha In Leather,” is a quintessential showcase of psychobilly prowess.

In a genre that’s often marginalized as camp, The Brains bring piss, vinegar, energy and a sense of integrity. Just don’t call them a new wave band.

By Stu Gilbert

Stu is a filmmaker, writer and guitar player from Austin, TX. He spent his college years following the Bob Dylan tour around the country and driving from Boulder to Austin every other weekend, putting over 200, 000 miles on a little white Toyota. He came of age in the 50s and 60s, despite having been born in the late 80s.

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