Here's a review of our Space Is The Place 10” single from the Spring 2013 issue of Shindig magazine. It's a beautiful object - thick vinyl, great sound! - and it's a limited edition of 300.
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!
We've had a slew of excellent reviews for Exploding Universe: Here's one from Aural Innovations:
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
And here's one from Bliss Aquamarine, which covers When Silence Was Sound too:
THE BRAINIAC 5 When Silence Was Sound 1977-1980 and Exploding Universe CDs (Reckless)
Originating in the mid 70s pub/club/festival scene, The Brainiac 5 have been on hiatus since the 1980s but have now returned with an all-new album Exploding Universe, as well as a retrospective album of early material, When Silence Was Sound, released on vocalist/guitarist Charlie Taylor's Reckless label, which has previously been home to various important names from the world of psychedelia, releasing albums by contemporary bands such as The Bevis Frond and The Black Sun Ensemble, and archival material from the likes of The Soft Machine and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. When Silence Was Sound is accompanied by a 16 page booklet with extensive notes and memorabilia photos. It includes 15 tracks from early Brainiac 5 records, plus two live recordings.
Waiting for the Woman combines bluesy rock with punk energy. Endless River begins as mellow psych-rock, before launching into an off-kilter psych-prog-punk frenzy. Move Up Trotsky has shades of 1960s psych-pop as well as heavier strains of psychedelia, but adds plenty of original ideas that make the song fresh and timeless. Monkeys and Degenerates is an ingenious mix of mod, psych, punk and reggae. Working is an off-centre, psychedelic take on ska-punk. Power is essentially indie-rock from a time before indie-rock had been invented! Addicted is a fine slice of punk-pop, melodic yet bursting with power and energy. Whilst The Brainiac 5 draw from genres popular at the time, like punk and ska, their incorporation of psychedelia as well as their own idiosyncratic inventions shows them to have been a hugely original, pioneering band. As they were so original, their music doesn't sound like a product of its time, but instead still sounds new and relevant today.
Despite a break of over 30 years, The Brainiac 5 continue pretty much where they left off with their new album Exploding Universe. Well, sort of - the music is still very much in the spirit of classic Brainiac 5, but they bring the ska influence further to the forefront and introduce some new elements to their music such as jazz and folk. Haphazard! brings to mind The Bevis Frond, combined with angular prog-punk and a few bursts of improvisational jazz sax. Ordinary Man is a bouncy psych-pop number combined with cheery, upbeat jazz aspects and absurdist recitation.The Beauty of it All is less frenetic or genre-hopping than usual, being a gentle, folk-tinged piece with expressive use of flute - although they do bring in some heavier and more psychedelic aspects during the instrumental interlude near the end. Walls are Falling Down combines retro pop with a punky snarl, with sax employed to add aspects of ska and jazz. Stars Plan Ahead is a kind of psychedelic reggae, interspersed with an instrumental section comprising soaring flute and wild, heavy psych-rock guitar. Another excellent album, which contains enough of the energetic psych-punk sounds to please long-term fans whilst showing a continued willingness to venture into new musical territories.
Here's the front cover of our When Silence Was Sound CD, released on April 7, 2014. This comprehensive 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. Hear When Silence Was Sound at https://brainiac5.bandcamp.com/album/when-silence-was-sound
Below is a review from Prog Rock magazine:
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!
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 Insidecould 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 When Silence Was Sound at https://brainiac5.bandcamp.com/album/when-silence-was-sound
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
For interview requests, promos and guestlists, please contact Gerry Ranson at MuleFreedom PR Gerry@mulefreedom.com
+44(0)207 249 5583 +44(0)7792 897035 www.mulefreedom-pr.blogspot.com & www.mulefreedom.com
And here's a review of Space Is The Place 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.
We've been busy recording our new CD, Journey To X, at Alchemy Studio in Wood Green
THE BRAINIAC 5
Reckless Records RECKCD102
Format CD/DL Distributed by Shellshock
Hear Exploding Universe at https://brainiac5.bandcamp.com/
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.
Hear Space Is The Place at https://brainiac5.bandcamp.com/album/space-is-the-place