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"Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, he’s fucking dead, the guy from Brainiac is fucking dead. I want this to mean something to every fucking one of you."
April 14, 2011 1:08 PM   Subscribe

15 years ago Dayton, Ohio band Brainiac released their third, and final full-length album Hissing Prigs in Static Couture on Touch & Go records. Lead by Tim Taylor on vocals/keyboards the album perfected a brand of short-circuit robot rock that made dance music out of violent shrieks and spasms. The band has been credited by Trent Rezor in 'really inspiring to me from a sonic influence' and eulogized by Jeff Buckley at his last gig.

Brainiac released the EP Electro-Shock for President in 1997, then began work on their never-to-be-completed fourth album rumored to be on Interscope, however, fate tragically intervened when Taylor lost control of his car on the way home from recording killing him in an explosion. Following the death of Taylor, the group disbanded and most members kept relatively quiet except for guitarist John Schmersal who later went on to form the indie-rock band Enon.
posted by wcfields (41 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can honestly say that this band had an outsized influence on how I think of guitar playing, melody and just how fun music can be.

The fact that Electro Shock for President, which was a real significant step forward (produced by Jim O'Rourke) was their last release is such a bummer, because of what may have been.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 1:10 PM on April 14, 2011


My most absolute, utter hippest moment of my entire life is seeing Brainiac play in someone's basement in Oxford, Ohio. Tim Taylor jumped around so much I thought he was going to knock himself out on the low ceiling. Great show, great energy.
posted by the dief at 1:10 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Poor Brainiac.

The first couple times I saw Enon, they were still doing the noise-rock and electronics thing, and were amazing. Too bad they morphed into another schmindie band after that.

(First time I saw Enon was right after a Peter Brotzman set at Ann Arbor's Edgefest, and it was awesome to go from screaming free jazz to screaming free electro-pop.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on April 14, 2011


I haven't listened to Hissing Prigs in years, but it's going on right now.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 1:22 PM on April 14, 2011


Wait, when was that basement show? Who else played? I think I was there. At the very least, I've been in that (stinking) basement.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:28 PM on April 14, 2011


I saw them in Orlando in 97. I talked to Taylor after the show about some of the strange sounding effects he was using. He was a very nice guy.
posted by chillmost at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2011


Oh man, I was never fortunate enough to catch Braniac live, but I did see Enon touring behind their first album, opening for the Dismemberment Plan. At the time, I didn't know about their connection to 8R4N14C, so this crazy-ass band exploding in front of me was a total surprise and remains one of the greatest shows I've ever seen. John all grabbing audience members around their unsuspecting noggins and yelling right in their faces, then stuffing the mic in his mouth to run across the stage and smack some weird electronics around and jump up and down. It was electrifying to watch.

Seeing them on tour for High Society was a huge let down. Not even half the energy of that first show.

. Tim Taylor
posted by Maaik at 1:39 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me and Schmersal have chatted over beer a few times; my old bandmates and I got to be kind of pals with Enon for a while after playing a few shows together. Even more so with their frequent touring partners at the time, The Bloodthirsty Lovers (another band with a close connection to rock tragedy, since leader Dave Shouse and his previous band The Grifters came up in the same scene and were really close to Buckley before his death). All of them were incredibly nice guys. We never talked about Brainiac or about Taylor's death (but I did ask him if he was really a utilitarian once). We still kept in touch with Dave for a while even after our band split, but we've kind of lost touch now. Man I miss all those guys. Especially Dave and the lovers. Nothing really valuable to add beyond that. Braniac was irreplaceable. Thinking of all this makes me sad about how little people really seem to value music anymore, though.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:41 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before Enon, Schmersal had a solo album that he recorded as John Stuart Mill: Forget Everything (1999; samples). And then he's gone out as part the touring form of Caribou.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on April 14, 2011


I liked Brainiac. It still amazes me that I can download most of their catalog in about 5 minutes.

Oh wow, I like Enon. I had no clue.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:02 PM on April 14, 2011


I saw Braniac live, it was great. I also saw Six Finger Satellite which I always considered to be kind of similar, but looking back on it Braniac was a lot better.
posted by cell divide at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2011


Saw them support Beck in Glasgow on May 13, 1997. They were ... okay, I suppose.
posted by scruss at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2011


Maaik: "... but I did see Enon touring behind their first album ..."

I saw them too in 2001 seeing them at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago. I can't remember the specifics of the night, but I do recall the opening band was in some sort of radiation/bomb squad bee suits.
posted by wcfields at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never heard of these guys before, but I was REALLY hoping to hear tunes made out of sampled "screams and spasms" and so on. Disappointing.
posted by starscream at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2011


My former band played some shows with them in Memphis and Nashville. They were seriously incredible and really nice to boot. And I can definitely say they had a big influence on my music later on.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:23 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


My old roommate's band Ifihadahifi are heavily Brainiac influenced. IIRC, the drummer even has a Brainiac tattoo.
posted by drezdn at 2:24 PM on April 14, 2011


Hot Seat Can't Sit Down not only still holds up, it's somehow more progressive and well crafted than most stuff I hear today. Completely risk taking and weird but somehow also completely accessible, pop songwriting.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 2:30 PM on April 14, 2011


Thanks for this. Saw them with Unwound back in the day, stellar show, great band, big loss.
posted by chaff at 2:39 PM on April 14, 2011


I do recall the opening band was in some sort of radiation/bomb squad bee suits.

Sounds like The Locust (who are awful)
posted by anazgnos at 2:52 PM on April 14, 2011


Dayton! I'll have to check this out.
posted by limeonaire at 3:00 PM on April 14, 2011


anazgnos: "I do recall the opening band was in some sort of radiation/bomb squad bee suits.

Sounds like The Locust (who are awful)
"

Yup! I even found pics from that show.
posted by wcfields at 3:10 PM on April 14, 2011


Brainiac was the last band that I saw that had a real sense of danger and confrontation in their live show while simultaneously playing great music. I'm sure there have been others since then but none whose music appeals to me. They were great and I miss them.
posted by ericthegardener at 3:12 PM on April 14, 2011


Maaik: ...was never fortunate enough to catch Braniac live, but I did see Enon touring behind their first album, opening for the Dismemberment Plan.

Interesting. Dismemberment Plan is the band I thought of when I heard the chorus to this song (Vincent Come On Down) by Brainiac just now. It would make sense DP would be influenced by these guys. Interesting that sort of band etymology.
posted by Skygazer at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2011


Anyhow, at the time, I heard the name Brainiac spoken of with quite a bit of reverence in indie noise circles around '95 / '96 and then that sad end.
posted by Skygazer at 3:25 PM on April 14, 2011


Never heard of them until now, but I think I just found a new favorite band.
posted by lekvar at 3:48 PM on April 14, 2011


I was too young and stuck in a musical backwater to hear Brainiac at the time, and found out about them after the fact via Enon, who I saw play a series of impressive shows in NC in the early 2000s.

Later I saw them at some show in a big venue at the 2003 CMJ Marathon, where they fared worse. The sound guy had them too quiet, and the crowd wasn't really into it. Whoever had booked the show slotted them after some emo band from NJ and before the Rapture (still riding Echoes hype) and the Mars Volta, and I'm pretty sure most of the crowd had never heard of Ebony before. But Schmersal didn't even let on that anything was wrong, shit talking the hecklers without skipping a beat and strutting around like he was actually rocking the place.

Really wish I had seen Brainiac, though...

.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2011


Phone autocorrected enon to ebony, sorry
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 3:56 PM on April 14, 2011


Another person who may have a new favourite band here. Taylor is completely mesmerising on the first song on this live video.
posted by minifigs at 4:11 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back in animation school, my roomie got me a copy of "Hissing Prigs In Static Coture" for Christmas or somesuch. "I think you'll like this," he said.

It's been twenty-odd years and I'm still not quite sure if I do or not. They sat on a very precisely chosen place between "catchy and driving and awesome" and "completely unlistenable noise". Which is a place a lot of what I was listening to back then lives.

But the playcounts in iTunes suggest that the number of times it's come up in the rotation and been subject to instant skipping to the next album (I keep it in 'shuffle by album' mode) is pretty low, so I guess I must like it.
posted by egypturnash at 4:45 PM on April 14, 2011


I made one of my younger co-workers listen to Brainiac a few months ago, and he said "You are really into music that stretches the boundaries of what can be called 'music,' aren't you?"

I also saw Six Finger Satellite which I always considered to be kind of similar, but looking back on it Braniac was a lot better.

Law of Ruins is a life changing record on par with absolutely nothing I've ever heard before. And their rarely heard EP Clone Theory is just pure driving rock whose only corollary would be Chrome at their best. Seriously, 6FS has an uneven discography, but it's almost impossible to express how powerful the good stuff is.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:20 PM on April 14, 2011


Oh God, these guys were just getting big when I was leaving Dayton. I hate to be all "your favorite band sucks," but they were the lamest of the college bands at the time. Give me Agnes Moorehead Platter or Pure Plastic Tree any day over those chumps. Bleh. Guided by Voices was a great Dayton band, but Brainiac ... well, they were a band from Dayton.
posted by rikschell at 6:23 PM on April 14, 2011


I never saw Brainiac either, but my old band the Beer Pagans played with Pure Plastic Tree a couple times. They were definitely lots of fun.
posted by pappy at 6:37 PM on April 14, 2011


I'm hearing a little Snakefinger in some of this. I like.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:52 PM on April 14, 2011


to sir with millipedes: Law of Ruins is a life changing record on par with absolutely nothing I've ever heard before. And their rarely heard EP Clone Theory is just pure driving rock whose only corollary would be Chrome at their best. Seriously, 6FS has an uneven discography, but it's almost impossible to express how powerful the good stuff is.

Thanks so much for the heads up on those Six Finger Satellite recs! I must have them.

Chrome's Half Machine Lip Moves by is one of my favorite albums of all time. It's a psychedelic noise rock masterpiece with so many strange parts, but the whole is just such trippy rockin' badass perfection.
posted by Skygazer at 6:53 PM on April 14, 2011


I bought Bonsai Superstar entirely based on a review in Alternative Press. The writer actually panned the album, refusing to even review the music because he assumed the unlistenable noise coming from the stereo was due to an error at the CD manufacturing plant. I became a bit obsessed with the band over the next few years. I still don't like to tune my guitar properly.
posted by matt_dys at 7:02 PM on April 14, 2011


Love Brainiac.

A friend's girlfriend was in the car while 'Fucking With The Altimeter' was on and said, "What's a fuselage?" That little phrase has been mine and my husband's little catch phrase that means, "That guy's stupid, yes?" ever since.

Also, Hissing Prigs was on constant rotation in my car while we were shuttling my father-in-law to and from doctor's appointments to figure out why he was having severe headaches and then while he was preparing for aortic and pulmonary aneurysm surgery (hence the headaches). It was a period of about two weeks, driving 40 minutes each way from his house to the doctor/hospital, and he would let us listen to whatever we wanted. He suffered strokes during the surgery and died a week later. We haven't been able to listen to Brainiac since then. It's too painful. I miss the songs but even thinking about that time makes me really, really sad.
posted by cooker girl at 5:28 AM on April 15, 2011


Correction: Bonsai Superstar was the album in rotation, not Hissing Prigs.
posted by cooker girl at 5:29 AM on April 15, 2011


Really? Law of Ruins over Pigeon? If I was getting into 6FS, I'd go the other way around. But maybe that's because I did.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basement shows in Oxford, OH... 15 years ago.... I saw some great basement shows there but not Brainiac sadly. (Anyone else here go to Miami? Western College Program, RIP?) I grew up in Cincinnati and the local rock show on the community radio station was one of my favoritest things ever; made high school somewhat more tolerable. Brainiac, Ass Ponies, Afghan Whigs, Haynes Boys, GBV, Greenhornes, Johari Window.... just thinking of these bands makes me feel like some kind of wistful old lady in a rocking chair.

In other words, thanks for the post.
posted by wowbobwow at 9:20 PM on April 15, 2011


brainiac along with a few other key bands forever changed the trajectory of my teenage musical tastes. still one of my absolute favs to this day. prigs is such a seminal album.
posted by nancydrew at 10:46 PM on April 15, 2011


Brainiac, Ass Ponies, Afghan Whigs, Haynes Boys, GBV, Greenhornes, Johari Window.... just thinking of these bands makes me feel like some kind of wistful old lady in a rocking chair.

Wow--Johari Window! That takes me back to the days when I still had hair.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:19 AM on April 18, 2011


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