Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mott the Hoople - Brain Capers

 And to those of you who always laugh
Let this be your epitaph

Brain Capers (1971)***1/2

Bashed out in a mere week as a final, frantic gasp before they were dropped by Island Records, Mott's fourth album ironically turned out to be the most consistent of their pre-glam albums.  The live in the studio feel suits a band never renowned for its subtlety or polish, but earned their rep as a barnstorming stage act.  After 'three strikes you're out' failures to translate that rep into any sort of crossover success, the bitterness and bile boil over on Mott's heaviest and most metallic album:  "How long before you realize you stink?" Ian Hunter spits out on the funky choogle of "Death May Be Your Santa Claus," which does indeed live up to its title.  With Verden Allen's murky, droning organ dominating the sonic landscape, the band bashes it out with almost physically bruising force, as Hunter croaks in his patented, "I can't sing worth a damn and who gives a shit?" sub-Zimmerman strain.  After that, catch your breath for a bit of light relief with a folky cover of Dion's "Your Own Backyard," - but no, you don't catch a break from the intensity just yet, as the anti-drug lyrics hit you like a subtle flying mallet.  As you can tell from the title, the Ralphs-sung cover of the Youngblood's "Darkness, Darkness," isn't the light relief you've been seeking, either - howling metallized soul is more like it, though not nearly as effective as the previous two songs.  "The Journey," stumbles through the desert for eight and a half minutes (have they learned nothing from "Half Moon Bay"?!), grinding the album to a dullsville halt.  Now, "Sweet Angeline," - that's the light relief we've been waiting for: a roller-rink organ roller of a pop tune that could've drifted in from the debut album, laughable but charming dead-on Dylanisms and all.  Unfortunately, at this point Verden Allen was flexing his muscle by shoving at least one token tune upon the band's records, despite the fact that he had close to zero talent as a lyricist or composer:  the Spanish horn drenched "Second Love," proves that John Entwistle he ain't, and is the second major dud.  Yet Mott save the best for second last:  "The Moon Upstairs," blasts out of the heat furnace as a relentlessly propulsive proto-punk classic, the band droning like the VU's nightmares and roaring like the Stooges' British cousins.  Hunter babbles some motorpsycho-Dylan tale of the police setting his body free but locking away his brain, as he wanders free as a bird with a broken wings, and takes time out in the bridge to insult the audience:  "We ain't bleeding you, we're feeding you, but you're too fucking slow," he sneers with fed-up frustration.  The final track, "The Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception", is nothing more than a minute and a half audio pastiche that contains the sounds of a party over music repeated from "The Journey".  Filler, they tend to call it.

26th March 1972, Zurich:  a date the band would memorialize in song a year or so later.  Mott play a club converted from a former gas tank, take a good hard look at their career prospects, and agree:  "If this is fame, forget it," (as Hunter put it).   Cue David Bowie to the rescue....

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