New and Improved: It’s Brainiac

Someone has slipped a sedative into Brainiac’s molotov cocktail. Until now, Dayton, Ohio’s Brainiac was a burning engine, enticing the masses to boogy their hearts out, to let loose and run wild through the streets of the Midwest. Brainiac used to be the band that scared everyone away because they were too weird-too heavy to be Devo and too strange to be punk. No one who has ever seen Brainiac play live would say that the band is calm on stage. Today’s Brainiac is surely just as exciting, but it’s ‘re exciting in slow motion.

At first listen, Hissing Prigs in Static Couture is your average Brainiac-Timmy Taylor “whoa whoa WOOO”ing and banging his noise machine like he hasn’t masturbated in a year. The rest of the band tries to keep up with chords that would make Beethoven cringe, chords that reinvent music and herald the coming of the end of the world as we know it. The second time my disc rotated through my CD player, though, I began to hear old age sinking in. On songs like “This Little Piggy” and “Fancy Neckwear,” Brainiac decides to slow it down, with tracks unlike the ones on their previous effort, Bonsai Superstar, that made the band so much fun.

It hasn’t all gone downhill. A majority of the songs retain some of that fast-paced hip-swinging Brainiac glow-songs with quirk appeal. From the spoken word-and-beats “Vulgar Trade” to the record-scratching gripe of “Pussyfootin’,” down to the “cock rock” roots of “I Am A Cracked Machine” (“I am your favorite DJ, a blip on the screen/I am a hotshot robot”), the boys of Brainiac know how to write songs that give confidence to hipsters who are still shopping for polyester and short-wave radios. On “Vincent Come on Down,” I was reminded of what Brainiac did on their first album. Smack Bunny Baby, for a brief moment as my shoulders started bouncing back and forth to the whick-whack of the sampler and the bouncy warp of the guitar. It was strangely laughable when Timmy T. started shouting “two, four, six, eight, tell me who I’m s’posed to hate,” ‡ la 80s big-haired rock band of choice.

Maybe they haven’t lost it. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe Brainiac has decided to move on, build another engine-one that takes the curves nice and slow, but is still just as exciting to drive. Whatever it is, Ohio’s Masters of the Hip have gotten a makeover. Put your polyester stripes back on. Jon Spencer, watch out. It’s still Brainiac-new and quite possibly improved.