By Jake Paxton
Fans of New York proto-punk may enjoy No Place Else, a debut effort from St. Louis-based and self-described garage rockers, The Brainstems. This record fires out on November 27th, the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, on the aptly-named Bad Diet Records, synonymous with some bad eating habits possibly picked up from a day of tiring relatives and shoving food down your guzzle to relieve the anguish of unabridged company. With their vintage sound and lo-fi recording it’s hard to believe that this is a modern record, but elements of noise rock hidden like Easter eggs beneath the front cover lands this group in the 21st century.
The LP rockets off with “Stallioning”, devoid of a pretentious prelude flying full gear into a sonic seven car pileup. The mixing and production aren’t exactly up to code, probably a cheap and hastily done project; yet the atmosphere is there, which is to say it feels like a live show in a dirty basement surrounded by garbage. You feel the familiar indigestion of cheap beer and fickle hormones rushing through you, commanding you and you decide impulsively to give the album a chance despite the quality of the recording.
Tracks like “Keep It Together” showcase experimental fusion of noise rock and punk. The lead guitar comes through and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the music distinguishing them from the all too typical blanket formula of modern garage punk. The lead work is featured heavily in other tracks such as “The Fourth” and the word iconic comes to mind on first listen.
The LP continues with “Simple Joys”, the marketed track so to speak. It is not all without wisdom to have chosen this track as a single, as it seems to be the most rhythmically steady; however it is not in my shortlist of tracks from this album. There are many other tracks that grab my particular attention that I would debut to someone before I eventually came to this one. With “Simple Joys,” you are nearly halfway through the LP and are noticing a lot of dynamics; however, in the overall layout of the album. The group, however inexperienced in quality production, is not a one trick pony and the musicianship is showcased.
Many of the tracks on this LP are typical length of foundation punk coming in at around two to three minutes. A few seem to end abruptly and create a sense of whiplash. The atmosphere is indeed there and reminds this particular writer of his early high school days going to punk shows in shitty dives and feeling the roar of the crowd and seeing the sweat soaked bare backs of the kids in front of me, and the stinging heat of it all.
The album continues on this journey of twist and turns, rises and falls. Towards the end of the record is an interesting track, “The People’s Joy,” coming in at a minute-thirty featuring a monotone monologue rant over a sort of blues punk odyssey. It reminds me Minor Threat’s “Salad Days” way back in the day and it adds to the authenticity of the genre absolutely.
And to conclude, that is what can be said of the album. There is authenticity in this record; a heartbeat that says “fuck you” to the standards set by Top 40 record which has soiled even the roots of some of the most distinguished independent artists. Many of the songs begin and end with the hiss of amplifiers that could have been easily edited out, but why? Why represent yourself in any other way than if you are a band capable of a fun intimate show between band and fan? These are questions we all should ask.