The Brainiacs can rock out like the Yardbirds and the Move but follow smoke trails laid down by figures as diverse as Sun Ra, Lee Perry, Funkadelic and seminal West Coast acts like Spirit and Skip Spence to create their own inimitable sound.
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Watch our "Your Body's Alright" video on You Tube:
This, our first trip into video land, is really quite silly and wonderful. We are pleased with our efforts. Give it a watch to have the opportunity of seeing us (and some other people that you may well know) make prats of ourselves. We would be grateful if you could pass the link on to your friends and put it up on any social network that you may be part of. We really are looking for world domination!
THE BRAINIAC 5
Reckless Records RECKCD102
Format CD/DL Distributed by Shellshock
After setting their house in order with the widely approved career retrospective When Silence Was Sound, the reunited, reconfigured and reinvigorated Brainiac 5 return with Exploding Universe. This new offering shows the enthusiasm and drive of those recordings have not been dimmed, and that the Brainiacs are still developing in new directions. Horns have now been added and a wider range of musical styles mined, yet this is still clearly very much a Brainiac 5 record, brimming with energy and invention. As before, few areas are truly off limits as they traverse their psych-punk blueprint through the neighbourhoods of funk, reggae and jazz on what is their most adventurous, yet focused, recording yet.
Recorded at Alchemy Studio in Wood Green, North London, Exploding Universe features ten new songs performed by the Brainiacs’ nucleus of Charlie Taylor, Duncan ‘Mad Dog’ Kerr and John ‘Woody’ Wood plus drummer Wayne Worrell and Nick Onley on sax and flute, with contributions from Ethan Landis (Hackney Brass Band) on trumpet and percussionist Phil Overhead. It was lovingly mixed by their longtime engineer, Hawkwind’s Martin Griffin at his Roche Studio on the edge of Dartmoor. The album also features a cameo from founder member and renowned Cornish poet Bert Biscoe, alongside appearances from the equally renowned Gertrude Stein and G I Gurdjieff.
Formed out of the ashes of free festival favourites the Half Human Band (also featuring Griffin), The Brainiac 5 made a name for themselves on the isolated yet thriving mid-70s Cornish pub, club and festival scene. Praised by the NME for their Mushy Doubt EP, the band made the move to London to enjoy the fruits of a gig circuit enlivened by punk. Yet despite sharing stages with The Soft Boys and The Barracudas and coming to the attention of the likes of John Peel and Alex Chilton, they split before their debut album World Inside could be released. The album eventually saw the light of day in 1988 via Reckless Records, also responsible for releases by such psych legends as Bevis Frond, Black Sun Ensemble and Mu.
Fast forward to 2013 and the opportunity to reconvene the Brainiacs resulted in the Sun Ra-inspired Space Is The Place, a 10-inch EP of new recordings on Bucketfull Of Brains magazine founder Nigel Cross’s Shagrat label, garnering effusive reviews from the likes of The Wire and Shindig!, with the following When Silence Was Sound retrospective receiving similar praise from Mojo, Record Collector, R2 and Vive Le Rock magazines.
Hear Exploding Universe at https://brainiac5.bandcamp.com/
The group’s music has a freshness and verve that makes their recent reformation seem entirely justified. Prog Magazine
It’s like finding something you never knew you’d lost. The Wire
The West Country’s answer to Television. Shindig!
Punk energy harnessed to a serious Ladbroke Grove attitude, the result a wonderful cornucopia of sound. Terrascope
**** R2 Magazine **** Record Collector
For interview requests, promos and guestlists, please contact Gerry Ranson at MuleFreedom PR Gerry@mulefreedom.com
The Brainiac 5 – “Exploding Universe” (Reckless Records 2015, CD/DL)
Born out of the mid-70s UK pub and festival scene, Psych-Punk rockers The Brainiac 5 released one EP and one 7″ back in the day, then recorded one full length album (World Inside) which was produced by Hawkwind’s Martin Griffin. The band split before the album was released though it was eventually unleashed in 1988 by Reckless Records. In 2013 the band reformed and released the Space Is The Place 10″, and in 2014 the 16 song retrospective When Silence Was Sound which compiled the songs from their 70s releases, including the World Inside LP plus live tracks.
And now we’ve got Exploding Universe, a set of 10 new songs by reformed Brainiac 5 members Charles Taylor, John ‘Woody’ Wood and Duncan ‘Mad Dog’ Kerr, plus drummer Wayne Worrell and Nick Onley on sax and flute, with contributions from Ethan Landis on trumpet and percussionist Phil Overhead.
Haphazard! opens the set and sounds like the band picked up precisely where they left off, being a Punk edged rocker with jawharp effects, saxophone and a brief dirty Psych guitar lead. Ordinary Man goes in a different directly, being a bouncy bit of tightly arranged Punk-Pop with swinging horns and fine harmonies behind Taylor’s oh so very English vocals. Empty And Blue features sultry rocking Blues with lots of horn action, harmonica and dirty guitar, plus the cool and strange contrast of Taylor’s distinctly Brit-Punk vocals. I like how near the end the music veers into a kind of I Want Candy tribal rocking groove with cool manic Psych guitar. The Beauty Of It All continues the zig-zag down varying stylistic territory, being an acoustic driven singer-songwriter bit of Folk-Pop with a head nodding flow and a nice flute solo. I like how it builds to full band majesty and wraps up with a beautifully tasty guitar solo before easing back into the main theme for a peaceful finale. Walls Are Falling Down is a pleasant melodic horn swinging rocker. Your Body’s Alright is similar with rocking guitar and a good time dancefloor Jazz flavor. I like the way Stars Plan Ahead alternates between lazy grooving Jazz-Reggae and more rocking segments, with a detour into a brief Jazz-Prog transition before launching into a ripping guitar jam. Lots happening here. Ditto for Growing Up, which has a “Big Band” Punk vibe with Jazz and Blues swing plus bits of hard Psych guitar. (I’m The) Glue builds on this sound, deftly blending saucy swinging big band Jazz with Hard Rock and Psych guitar colorings and those ever present punky vocals. And Exorcist Plan is a spirited rocker that brings the set to a close.
In summary, decades may have passed for these guys but The Brainiac 5 have clearly matured as musicians, serving up an accessible set of tightly played and arranged songs that draw on Jazz, Blues, Pop, Punk, Hard Rock and Psych influences. Despite that array it’s all completely cohesive yet somehow… different. If you’re new to The Brainiac 5, as I was, check out both the new album and the retrospective collection. The early music is just as diverse and it’s cool to compare with where they have impressively arrived today.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz
Here's the front cover of our CD, released on April 7, 2014. This timely compilation comprises the band’s 7-inchs along with sole long-player World Inside, all produced in the late ‘70s by Hawkwind drummer Martin Griffin, and some mad live tracks recorded at The White Horse in Launceston in 1980. Including a sixteen-page booklet with full band history by archivist Colin Hill, When Silence Was Sound is packaged in mindbending art from the paintbox of noted UK artist John Hurford. It’s the first release on the reactivated Reckless Records imprint. Available via Cargo, on Amazon and at the Reckless Records shop at 30, Berwick St., London W1.
Review from Prog Rock magazine (also see reviews from Mojo and Record Collector on our Facebook page):
please welcome the revivified Brainiac 5 featuring Charlie Taylor (guitar/vocals), Woody (bass), Duncan Kerr (lead guitar/vocals) and Joe Malone (drums). Duncan replaces former B5 axeman, Richard Wildman Booth, with whom he played in the legendary long lost Plummet Airlines.
the Brainiacs were a Cornwall-based psychedelic punk band, who came to prominence in 1978 with the wonderful 'Mushy Doubt' EP, a favourite of the late DJ John Peel. The EP featured great songs like 'Vegetable' which packed a Pistols-type punch with more esoteric leanings. The set's centre piece was 'Endless River', a West Coast-sounding number that drew very favourable comparisons with vintage Country Joe & the Fish.
the band played many action-packed live shows both in London and down on the peninsula (including the infamous 4th July Independence Day concert at the town hall in Launceston), and released another 7" before splitting in 1980. A further single and an album were posthumously released and are now collectors' editions.
Penzance was their base of operations from 1975 until their move to London in 1979. They played 100s of gigs in West Cornwall during that time, and established a weekly club at the Gulval Meadery where they encouraged up and coming local bands (eg The Imports) to play.
this latest incarnation grew out of a reunion attempt last year to refloat Taylor's mythic early 70s combo, the Half Human Band.
this year and last the Brainiacs have played a number of London shows, including The Doghouse, The Bull & Gate, The Hideaway, Dublin Castle and The Silver Bullet, plus a short Cornish tour taking in Launceston and Penzance.
2013 saw the release of a 10" vinyl featuring a new recording of fan favorite Space Is The Place, on Shagrat Records. In 2014 Reckless Records released a CD of most of the vinyl recorded by the Brainiacs in the 70s.
Here's a review of our new single from the May 2013 issue of Wire magazine:
Space is the Place
Reformed/remodelled version of this great 1970s Cornwall acid punk outfit. The A side is a tribute to Sun Ra, done in the style of Quicksilver Messenger Service or Man. The flip revives (from memory) two songs done by the pre- Brainiac Half Human Band, which is classic tasty-lick action of the 1974 variety. It’s like finding something you never knew you lost.
Here's a review of our new single from the Spring 2013 issue of Shindig magazine:
Space Is The Place
Judging by Sun Ra’s visage on the psychedelic cover painting and name among the dedications, some kind of space-jazz blast might be expected. However, while inspired by Ra to write the title track in 1978, singer-guitarist Charles Taylor has more of a personalized vision of reaching for the stars through Brainiac Five’s music, unleashing a heady blend of west coast psych-rock and vibrant ‘60s vocal harmonies.
The band, named after a DC comics character, first operated in deepest Cornwall between ’75 and ’79, reuniting last year at Disco 3000 (another Ra reference) in Epping to record three tracks, now released by the mighty Shagrat Records as a 300 copy 10-inch slab of vinyl.
The title track, ‘Matelot Mick’ and ‘Kabul’ are all imbued with the joyful energy of a band playing together again after years away, guitarist Mad Dog Kerr on blistering form throughout in that Kaukonen-Cippolina fashion. Hot tip of the month for devout Shindiggers!
In some far off place
Many light planes in outerness-space
I'll wait for you
One day in 1967 I was as usual spending my school lunch break in the record department of my local Boots when I saw something unusual in the jazz rack: Heliocentric Worlds Vol. 2 by Sun Ra. The track names were intriguing - The Sun Myth, A House Of Beauty, Cosmic Chaos - so I asked the shop assistant to give it a spin. At first it sounded like a racket, but Ronnie Boykins' bass solos began to get through to me and then - whoosh! - an epiphany: I was transported from Kingston on Thames to the outer reaches of the universe, hearing sounds from mysterious worlds I'd never realised existed. I handed over my pocket money, took the record home and became a lifelong fan. So In 1978 when the Brainiac 5 were living in West Cornwall, home of ley lines and stone circles, it wasn't surprising that I had the idea to write a song in honour of Sun Ra. It would be in the Brainiac style but using Sun Ra's imagery, attempting to replicate his sense of journeying from the "same old, same old" Planet Earth to the delights and strangeness of Outer Space. In other words, Space Is the Place.
In December 2008 I arrived back in the UK after 20 years in the USA, reconnected with the members of the Half Human Band, and began knocking up some of our old material with guitarist "Hairy" Mart Isaacs and bass player Dave Pugh. There are no surviving recordings of the early HHB and our memories were hazy, but from our fragmentary recollections we were able to piece together two complete songs that are reasonably close to what you would have heard if you'd seen the Half Human Band at the first Windsor Free Festival or Guildford Civic Hall supporting E.L.O. So you could say that those two songs, Matelot Mick and Kabul, have an archaeological aspect.
Regular HHB rehearsals were impractical as the band members' homes are spread far and wide across the UK. As time went by Woody took over on bass, Dunk arrived on guitar and we began regular weekly rehearsals. Dunk is a veteran of Plummet Airlines and the Darts, and he played keyboards on the Brainiac 5 LP, World Inside, so it was an easy fit. By this time we'd started rehearsing Brainiac material too. All we were lacking was a drummer, so, of course, we called Steve Hudson and, blimey, he said yes. From our first rehearsal it was clear that the magic was still there, though we were rusty and it was hard work for a while until one day everything fell into place and we realised we'd arrived at our own sound. It's actually quite different from the original Brainiacs: less punk, more psychedelic, and we're not afraid to take our time now.
The three songs on this 10" vinyl were recorded in an unusual manner. We wanted to stay away as far as possible from the modern practice of first recording the drums, then the bass and so on. We wanted to catch the musical interaction that spontaneously happens in live performance. So we recorded live direct to two track. What you hear is the entire band including vocals and solos recorded in single takes. If anyone made a mistake we had to start again. It took us two afternoons to get the versions you hear here, plus a couple of hours overdubbing extra backing vocals and percussion, and that's it….
Thanks for listening!