This Brainstems article was written by Tim Thackray, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Frisia Dunn.
The brainstem is a small, but very important part of the brain, with many vital functions including breathing, sleeping, eating and keeping your heart beating. The Brainstems however are a rock and roll band from St Louis who, while not necessary for your day-to-day survival, will definitely raise your heartbeat with their debut record ‘No Place Else’.
Opener ‘Stallioning’ is a raucous introduction to the band with a spider-leg guitar line bursting into a rough and fuzzy garage rock riff. Sam Clapp’s lassaiz-faire singing style is in contrast to the frantic guitar work as he barely concedes to hide his apathy with modern life. ‘Keep It Together’ recalls The Buzzcocks in their electrifying youth while ‘Redline’ has more than a few shades of fellow blues-garage enthusiasts Brimstone Howl.
The four-piece were originally a Ty Segall and the Coachwhips cover band and have released a string of singles where they’ve showcased everything from deadly one minute wonders to spiralling laid back jams. On their first record though they keep things concise, rowdy, and don’t leave much time between the hooks to digest. ‘Simple Joys’ is a perfect example of how they leap straight to the chorus within the first 30 seconds. Even if garage-rock isn’t particularly up your street, it’s likely that their catchy melodies will keep you enticed for longer than expected.
Like a kid who has had one too many Panda Pops, The Brainstems never sit still for long and just when you think you’ve got them sussed, they’ll leap in another direction with a pulsating outro or a display of their softer side. On ‘What It Is’, they combines archaic synths with gentler guitars to a surprisingly calming effect after a ferocious run of songs where you think their amps might catch fire.
Side B begins at 100mph with the scintillating ‘4244’, which sounds a little like the Batman theme tune played at the speed of light before breaking down into a mesmerising chanting vocal. It sums up both the straight and experimental side of the band, a group who are just as happy on a trippy underpath as they are playing three chords with a fuzz pedal.
Taking that step from covers band to becoming an artist in your own right can be a difficult journey, but The Brainstems have proved on ‘No Place Else’ that they have plenty of their own ideas to make a name for themselves.