Electro-Shock for President (Touch and Go)

Brainiac

By Bob Bahr

This fourteen-minute disc may be a glorified maxi-single with "Fresh New Eyes" as the star, but it's still worth the cash. That opening tune is fascinating: tough, lo-fi vocals, big production that seethes with circuitry, synth notes that low sinisterly at the bottom, and lyrics with the menace of a Jim Thompson novel. This is a song that I predict won't go away; at the very least, some enterprising filmmaker will smartly place it in a movie.

Brainiac sounds like a product of 1997, but with very strong roots in early '80s European dance music. The robotic/sci-fi/synthesizer schtick is in full effect, but there is an underground grittiness to their music, a malignant force that is even more evident in the words. "Flash RAM" is quaintly retro, but sit down and ponder the puzzle: the lyrics seem to sketch out the complaints of a wronged lover, the voice sounds like a mis-aimed prediction (circa 1975) of human/technological culture at 2000 A.D., and the title is straight out of today's cutting edge computer lingo. Two middle cuts, "The Turnover" and "For My Beloved," are threatening ambient tunes that sound like the noises inside of an amoral machine with advanced artificial intelligence.

The last cut, "Mr. Fingers," is a noisy, slightly crazed bit of pop that presents a character wracked with guilt and fearful for his sanity, who talks to his fingers and admonishes them for what they say and do. Nearly as good as "Fresh New Eyes," it wallomps along on boisterous drumming, damaged bass and guitar, and frenzied percussion samples.

Go ahead, call them square. Titling a song "Flash RAM" certainly justifies the charge. Brainiac probably won't cast you a glance. Their mechanized future renders you obsolete, and that looks like a hint of a smile on the metal faceplate of your replacement unit. No, no. Computers will never buy albums. Perhaps the one thing that this EP may suggest is that we organic beings will pass angst on to our computerized creations. What a legacy.