This Warm Brains article was written by Ian Bailey, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster.
If you listen to ‘Pink Blackpool Rock’ first, then the first thing that you notice about Warm Brains is that they sound a lot like a Shoegaze band. The second thing you notice about Warm Brains is that your first idea was wrong. Very wrong. Warm Brains may sound a lot like a Shoegaze band, but they’re not one. They’re more primal than that; they’re a noise rock band straight out of early 80’s New York wearing the irreverence and fashion of an alternative rock band. Then, as you continue on through the album, you realize that even that assumption was wrong, and you couldn’t be happier.
I say “they” and “fashion” as if Warm Brains is an actual band, as if there were more members than just Rory Atwell, former member of Test Icicles – who were the next big thing for 26 minutes back in 2005. But there aren’t, there’s just Rory Atwell handling everything – the whole album was mixed and mastered by him, too – and I suppose, when I think about it, that makes sense. This isn’t the regurgitated style of the late 80s, this is one man’s vision.
The answer is that it sounds like Victor Frankenstein driving a red 50’s Cadillac speeding into hell to a soundtrack done by Gang of Four and Sonic Youth. There’s cacophony here, just as you’d expect, and maybe a little emotion, but also more than a little awareness. Some acoustics and electronics here and there. Maybe even a little funk, too.
It’s difficult to describe each of the individual tracks on Big Wow. Each of the 14(!) tracks is in some way very similar, and yet at the same time, they’re all very different. To put it bluntly: ‘Bewildered’ is the best song on the album. Hands down. ‘Brain Inside a Jar’ has a fantastic drum intro. ‘Braising in the Sun’ features an equally impressive acoustic intro. ‘The Islandman’ is very, very heartfelt – which was, without a doubt, the single biggest surprise on this album. And finally, ‘(We Always Quake at the Plans of Nigel)’ makes you wonder what the heck you have just listened to.
In terms of the lyrics, there’s enough word salad here to open a small restaurant. There are some moments where Atwell makes observations, such as in ‘Languid Tarmac’ where he sings “The girls say that they’re insane/but it’s quite clear that they’re not” but such instances are rare. Not that it matters anyway – on an album like this, lyrics are secondary if not third.
Ultimately, Big Wow is one man’s vision. It’s not an album to impress people, but it is an impressive album regardless. Indie-Dance Punk with acoustics, electronics and musique concrète isn’t for everyone, but there is no doubt that those who do enjoy it will enjoy it a lot.