Thursday, 15 January 2015

Expandobrain - Mother of God! It's Expandobrain! (1986)

Here's a bit of an oddity, I suppose. Amongst a few tracks I taped off a John Peel show broadcast sometime in 1987 was Thyroid by Expandobrain. Peel didn't seem to know much about them, and I never heard their name again, which seemed a shame because Thyroid is a face-punchingly great song. Many centuries later I live in America and have somehow survived for three years without a turntable - or record player as is the correct terminology - due to the complications of stuffing my entire life into boxes and shipping it to another country; but now, at last I am fully equipped and once more spinning the living shit out of my beloved vinyl collection, and someone has invented the internet since I last considered Expandobrain. Sadly it transpires that they really were as obscure as I imagined, so there's not a lot out there, although I now at least have a means of getting hold of the album from which Peel played a few tracks. It's taken one hell of a long time, but it's been worth the wait.

I can't even remember what else was going on back in 1986 when this was recorded, and certainly not in terms of Americans with guitars. I was only ever an infrequent listener to John Peel's show, and I never really liked Sonic Youth, and I'm not sure I've ever actually heard any Hüsker Dü. The cover - very much resembling something scribbled on the back of an exercise book at school - namechecks Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Live Skull, Swans, and Moving Targets, regarding which I've heard one Meat Puppets track and have a stack of Swans albums which sound nothing like this. I suppose Dinosaur Jr. - another band to which I've never really taken - were around by then. I don't know where Expandobrain fitted in, but I suppose it doesn't matter.

I was anticipating Thyroid and a load of tragic b-sides, partially based on how good an album is likely to be when you've waited this long to hear it, but incredibly this one turns out to be good right through to the last track. Expandobrain - actually Expando Brain which looks wrong to me because I've thought of the name as a single word for nearly three decades - were your basic guitar, bass and drums in some guy's garage, fast and punky but tuneful, the sort of thing that Steve Albini might have ended up producing had they lasted, although for all the twangy angst and pounding tension, there's something wonderfully upbeat in here - reminding me a hell of a lot of the more recent Parquet Courts, maybe some sort of happy medium between the Monkees and a less wanky Sonic Youth with a touch of an angrier, more sarcastic REM before they became an international chemical processing franchise.

I don't know. The review is in there somewhere. Just pick out the bits you like. As I already said, Mother of God! has been worth the wait, and as a lost or potentially forgotten gem - which it really, really is - you might be advised to hunt it down now before obscurity and collector mania pushes the price up through the roof.

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